February 15th, 2006 06:10 EST
FEMA to Maximize Mission Performance
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced several new measures designed to strengthen the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) essential functions so it can more effectively respond to manmade or natural disasters, particularly during catastrophic events. These new measures are designed to match the experience and skills of FEMA employees with 21st century tools and technology - maximizing the agency’s performance regardless of disaster size or complexity.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) fiscal year 2007 budget request also asks for increased funding to begin strengthening FEMA – specifically a 10 percent increase in FEMA's budget over this fiscal year. In total, funding for FEMA’s core budget will grow 40 percent since fiscal year 2004. This budget request also provides additional resources to upgrade FEMA’s Emergency Alert System; increase FEMA’s procurement staff and overall capabilities; improve capital infrastructure and information technology; and strengthen overall mitigation, response and recovery capabilities.
Together, these new measures and additional resources are intended to improve DHS’ ability to build integrated homeland security capabilities, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, serve disaster victims more effectively, and empower FEMA to act with efficiency and urgency when fulfilling its historic and critical mission of response and recovery – particularly before the next hurricane season.
Improving FEMA’s Logistics Capabilities
- DHS will establish a more sophisticated and specialized logistics management system to better track shipments of materials and equipment, manage inventories, and ensure effective distribution and delivery of needed supplies.
- This new system will include a streamlined logistics supply chain to maximize readiness and ensure inventories and networks are in place to deliver supplies and assistance, while also replenishing stocks, in a reasonable amount of time.
Enhancing Customer Service and Intake Procedures
- New upgrades and improved business processing will be applied to FEMA’s customer service system to strengthen its ability to register disaster victims eligible for assistance, protect against fraud and abuse, and adjust to changing needs of disaster populations during significant recovery periods. These changes include:
- Upgrades to FEMA web site and 1-800 call-in number to double existing capabilities by handling at least 200,000 disaster registrations per day;
- Advanced information technology and computer systems to more easily gather, search, and track case-specific information; and
- Continued training on professionalism and customer service for DHS personnel to ensure timely and accurate information is provided during an emergency.
- Establish a highly-trained unit of permanent employees, in addition to volunteers, to serve as a core disaster workforce able to take full advantage of DHS assets, resources, and capabilities;
- Develop a pilot program for deploying mobile disaster assistance trucks to victims in temporary housing or shelters enabling victims to receive assistance closer to home or place of work;
Improving the Debris Removal Process
- Debris removal often stands as a barrier to rebuilding homes, reconstructing infrastructure, and clearing public and private lands due to complicated contracting and reimbursement processes established between governments and communities. In order to streamline this process and ensure quick reimbursement for services, FEMA will work to establish solid contracting practices to help communities quickly begin recovery operations.
Building More Effective Communications
- DHS will establish a hardened set of communications capabilities to ensure timely and accurate awareness about conditions and events unfolding during a disaster. These capabilities will be achieved through:
- Interoperable equipment able to function despite loss of power, damage to infrastructure and severe weather;
- Enhanced communication capabilities to provide real-time information that can be used to inform decision making and prioritize resource requirements; and
- Specialized reconnaissance teams made up of DHS personnel and assets from components including the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These self-sustaining teams will relay vital information back to DHS to coordinate incident management activities and enhance information sharing between government officials and emergency responders.