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We hear a lot about FEMA in the news. Mainly because there are a seemingly unending number of disasters they respond to in America.

But like lots of other acronyms – NASA, NASDAQ, ICBM, to name a few – we might forget what the letters stand for. As a reminder, FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They’ve taken a lot of heat through the years. Heck, I’ve criticized them too. Mainly because they’ve been unable to respond quickly and well enough to meet the needs of disaster victims.

But once FEMA officials admitted they were incapable of doing what they were designed to do, criticism died down. And then they added that people need to prepare for emergencies. Which, of course, is what we’ve been saying all along.  

Mission: disaster response

Here’s a brief history lesson about FEMA. Including the agency’s establishment, mission and activities.

Stay with me here because I want to remind you of how important it is to remain self-reliant. FEMA won’t always be able to protect you.

FEMA was founded in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter. The agency’s primary mission has always been the same. To coordinate responses to disasters overwhelming local and state resources.

Since 2003, FEMA is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its 2021 budget was $22.1 billion.

By invitation only

In order for FEMA to step in and help, a state’s governor must declare a state of emergency. And request assistance from the U.S. president.

The exception is if a disaster occurs on federal property or to a federal asset. Examples are the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. And the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Whenever it is called in, FEMA provides on-the-ground support of disaster relief efforts. It also provides experts in specialized fields to local and state governments. As well as funding for rebuilding efforts. 

In addition, FEMA issues funds for the training of response personnel. Throughout the country and its territories.

Federal assistance started in 1803

Now, federal assistance for disaster relief was available long before FEMA’s formation.

The first time the federal government provided relief after a disaster was 1803. Congress extended a deadline for merchants to pay tariffs on imported goods. This followed a series of fires in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Other examples of federal assistance in the 1800s followed the Great Fire of New York in 1835. And the collapse of John T. Ford’s Theater in 1893.

Last century, feds stepped in with assistance during the Great Depression. As well as with road reconstruction and irrigation projects after severe flooding.    

2020 & 2021 busiest years ever

I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn that the past two years have been the busiest in the agency’s history.

In 2020, for the first time, the agency responded to disasters in all 50 states. As well as in Washington, D.C. and five U.S. territories.

There have been hundreds of presidentially declared emergencies and disasters the last two years. The agency has also sent out tens of thousands of alerts over its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.

Well over 10,000 FEMA employees supported response efforts to hurricanes, blizzards, wildfires and much more. 

More than $1 billion was paid out to flood insurance policy holders. Billions more went for grants to disaster survivors. And to help communities prepare for disasters. 

Pandemic & weather dominated 2021

A major portion of FEMA’s time and budget went to coronavirus pandemic response in 2020 and 2021. The agency coordinated the shipping and/or delivery of billions of gloves, surgical masks, respirators, gowns, face shields and more.

FEMA also teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services for pandemic responses. As well as the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

But plenty more time and money was spent on relief from a variety of weather-related disasters. The agency responded to Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, which included a deep freeze in the South.

Plus Hurricane Ida in the Southeast in August; Western drought, heat waves and wildfires in the summer and fall; tornadoes in Kentucky and surrounding states in December; and many more.   

Self-sufficiency is the key

By its own admission, FEMA can’t help everyone who needs it following extreme weather or other disasters. And certainly not in a timely manner.

That’s why it’s crucial to become self-reliant through preparedness. It has been repeatedly proven that we can’t count on any agency – local, state or federal – to save us in times of distress.

We can only count on ourselves. And that requires a mindset of preparedness. And a stockpile of the most important things we’ll need to survive when the stuff hits the fan.

Now, there are plenty of survival products that would be good to own. But it’s tough to top survival food to get you through a 72-hour period. Especially when you can double your food amount without having to pay extra for it.

You’d have to be quite optimistic to believe 2022 will be easier to deal with than the past two years were. But if you’re prepared for it, it just might be for you and your family.  

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