Supporting Bridges Under Troubled Waters: FEMA’s Flood Relief Efforts
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the nation. Floods are a year-round disaster and affect every state and territory in the United States.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and NOAA have collaborated throughout the years to help people understand the importance of being prepared for a flooding emergency. FEMA is preparing for flooding as a key element of their mission “to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.”
One such emergency happened in South Carolina in October 2015. Because of a weather system that kept picking up moisture from the tropical Atlantic, flooding was extreme. The flooding eventually caused 17 deaths and cost a projected $12 billion in damages.
In response, FEMA sent team members to the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center, deployed two Urban Search and Rescue teams, and staffed its regional coordination center in Atlanta, Georgia, to better facilitate coordination between the state, FEMA, and its Federal partners on a regional level. FEMA distributed supplies – such as water, food, and blankets – as requested and needed. FEMA Corps also deployed 28 teams to help victims of the flooding gain needed assistance.
To better prepare and assist the public in a severe flooding situation, FEMA already provides updates on its Ready.gov website. However, FEMA could take advantage of many other areas of social media and outreach. Finding ways for a ‘one-on-one’ connection instead of a generalized approach – especially with those living in areas historically prone to flooding – is key. FEMA could do everything from holding town halls and handing out fliers to having an ‘ask the experts’ webinar series.
FEMA’s public outreach efforts can significantly benefit from increased engagement with flooding prone communities and a more robust online public awareness campaign, both critical items that can better prepare the American people for the next disaster.