FEMA administrator testifies on preparedness priorities

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On April 11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at a hearing titled, “FEMA: Prioritizing a Culture of Preparedness.” During the testimony, Administrator Long provided the Committee an overview of FEMA’s work during the historic 2017 disaster season, including lessons learned by the agency and plans for improving disaster response and mitigation for future catastrophic events. In particular, he reviewed the challenges FEMA faced in 2017 when responding to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and simultaneously battling the overwhelming wildfires that burned thousands of acers of land in western states. 

During the hearing, Administrator Long also discussed the role of local governments in responding to disasters, and specifically highlighted how many local governments coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions to solve problems on their own when their capacity has been overwhelmed. Further, he explained that FEMA’s ability to provide support in disasters builds on and is subject to the capacity of state, territorial, tribal and local governments’ ability to respond to natural disasters.

In closing his remarks, Administrator Long shared FEMA’s recently released 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, which includes three major themes: building a culture of preparedness, readying the nation for catastrophic disasters and reducing the complexity of FEMA. To read more about FEMA’s new plan, please click here.

Following the hearing, NACo, along with organizational partners from the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), submitted a joint statement for the record to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the role of states and local governments in responding to disasters. The letter highlights the 59 major disaster declarations, 15 emergency declarations and 63 fire management assistance declarations state and local officials responded to in 2017. Additionally, the letter expresses concern over portions of President Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Request, which proposes cutting funding for five preparedness grant programs state and local governments use to help prepare for and respond to disasters of all sizes.

NACo will continue engaging with FEMA as they further implement their new Strategic Plan, as well as policymakers in Washington to ensure our nation’s counties have the resources and training necessary to prepare for, respond to and mitigate against disasters.

To view the joint statement, click here

To view a full transcript of Administrator Long’s testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee click here.

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