FEMA’s New Strategic Plan

FEMA recently released their 2022-2026 Strategic Plan. The goals of the new strategic plan hit two themes that have been getting a lot of worthwhile attention lately, along with a third theme that needs to remain evergreen. In the document, each of these goals are broken down into objectives for implementation. The goals are:

  1. Instill Equity as a Foundation of Emergency Management
  2. Lead Whole of Community in Climate Resilience
  3. Promote and Sustain a Ready FEMA and Prepared Nation

Equity in emergency management has been a hot topic lately as more and more is unveiled about how poorly emergency management programs as a whole have been meeting the needs of several underserved populations. While much of this has been seen in disaster recovery efforts, there is distinct evidence of not adequately supporting these populations and communities in all phases and mission areas. In this goal, FEMA commits to applying attention, resources, and assessment of programs and policies to eliminate disparities. Included in the implementation objectives is the need for a diverse workforce, as representation of the communities we serve will help us serve them better.

I was pleased to see FEMA’s second strategic goal addressing climate resilience. Obviously, this is a notable return to science after the previous administration’s directive to federal agencies to fundamentally ignore climate change. I’m also happy to see that this goal addresses ‘resilience’. It’s an important acknowledgement that we can’t stop or prevent climate change. While efforts to reduce it should continue across every sector, in emergency management our focus must be on adapting and mitigating. The implementation objectives rightfully include efforts to increase climate literacy among emergency managers, and further promoting climate resilience efforts primarily through hazard mitigation activities.

The last goal is much broader, encapsulating the mission of FEMA and emergency managers as a whole. The narrative of the goal reinforces continued advancement of the profession and mentions training several times. The metrics for the first implementation objective of this goal make mention of ‘new baseline standards for emergency managers.’ The narrative of the objective states “The growth of the emergency management community necessitates a clear definition of the competencies required to become a qualified emergency manager. Like other professions, emergency management must standardize its career paths.” This is a pretty powerful statement, and hopefully an initiative that sees action. I firmly believe FEMA should be leading an effort, in partnership with others, to identify a standard set of emergency management qualifications. This supports a documented standard (which should be independent of a membership-driven organization), and can help focus training, education, and professional development efforts. I’m very excited about what this can bring for our profession.

Another component of the third goal worth mentioning is an effort to develop ‘a framework that continually assesses FEMA’s readiness and provides a systematic approach for prioritizing resources and mitigating risks to critical functions during large or long duration events.’ This is a worthwhile initiative, but with abundant complexity. It’s difficult to assess anything internal to FEMA without considering the capabilities and capacities of other federal agencies as well state and local governments (which the strategic plan seems to acknowledge), along with the landscape of threats and hazards. FEMA has tried to measure much of this through the years with the THIRA, State Preparedness Reports, and National Preparedness Reports. The National Preparedness Reports (of which the 2021 report should be released soon) have largely upheld a tradition of mediocrity in data, analysis, and reporting. For FEMA to develop any type of ‘Readiness Indicator’, which I think is a great idea, they first need to address how they are measuring preparedness and gaps, which has been a woefully inadequate effort to date.

Overall, I think this Strategic Plan, if implemented, will help further FEMA’s mission as well as emergency management as a whole. I’m excited about the direction and changes this promotes across the entire profession, supporting traditionally underserved populations, science, and the profession.

What are your thoughts?

© 2021 Tim Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC®