Politicians Need to Quit Living in the Past

Recent cries in political circles have called for disaster relief to be handled on a local and regional level as opposed to a national level. To this end, organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, are likely to be phased out in favor of smaller governmental agencies on the state and local level. Some, though, feel this is a mistake, according to www.nature.com.

The most effective benefit of FEMA as an agency lies in the way it coordinates recovery efforts between the various agencies involved in a crisis management situation. This is facilitated by FEMA’s ability to reinforce common standards within recovery efforts and across organizations. The organization plays the crucial role of lead coordinator, which ties everyone’s efforts together. Other than its coordination benefits, FEMA also provides money for disaster relief after the fact as well. And while this can be handled by state and local authorities, FEMA can muster funds on a national level, and get it to where it can do the most good.

The main issue involves the politicization of FEMA, which in some ways is a double-edged sword. On one hand, studies show that disaster relief can have real-world political benefits, especially in the aftermath of such disasters. While on the other hand, cutting funding to organizations such as FEMA seems popular when no disasters are currently happening.

FEMA was originally created by the Carter Administration in 1979 at the request of state governors tired of dealing with the often confusing federal approach at the time. Since then, the organization has grown to become a reliable resource, offering a service that the free market does not. It is also an area that state and local agencies under-invest in. In the long run, it costs less to develop such high-level risk management expertise at a national level as opposed to the local level. Without FEMA, each state and local authority would have to create an organization to do what FEMA does now. Instead of one overarching authority, there would be many, and in essence would be a return to the past.

For more information about the debate surrounding FEMA, visit: http://www.nature.com/news/a-central-agency-is-crucial-for-disaster-response-1.12536