Why FEMA Can't Tackle Disaster Alone
FEMA reportedly sent unqualified aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria because of understaffing.
Most everyone knows that 2017 was an eventful year for storms. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria all took place within a 26-day span and were each incredibly destructive. FEMA, also known as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent out tens of thousands of workers to try to help affected communities recover from the devastating aftermath of the storms. Recently, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that FEMA was stretched so thin during last year’s storms that they decided to send a number of unqualified workers into the field. As of October, 2017, a reported 54% of workers were deployed without the title of “qualified” as cited by FEMA’s own qualifications system.
"By the time Maria hit Puerto Rico, they were down to the bottom of the barrel… The effect of this is that during the response phase -- and especially during recovery -- these are the folks that are working with the territory and the state governments -- and they're not fully trained on FEMA's programs." -- Chris Currie, director of emergency management issues at the GAO.
The GAO report went on to report that "[f]ederal, state, and territory officials noted that the shortages and lack of training led to confusion and lack of program expertise, particularly after Hurricane Maria." This confusion is incredibly dangerous, especially during times of extreme emergency when thousands of lives are at risk. Furthermore, reports have surfaced that FEMA is already stretched thin for year’s hurricane season. FEMA documents gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request note that their disaster-response team is understaffed by 26%. Additionally, many of those on the already insufficient force have been known not to respond when called on. This was a massive problem last year and will likely be a problem again this year.
In summary, although FEMA is the U.S.’s most powerful force behind disaster recovery, it has its flaws and is not adequately prepared to handle significant disasters alone. That’s where we come in. Geospiza’s technology increases the amount of accurate data that’s gathered during a time of emergency. This data increases capacity and productivity, which would give organizations like FEMA better strategies for how to best deploy their workers. With more accurate information, one FEMA responder could be as efficient as three.