By now everyone has heard of FEMA but are a little in the dark about that they do and when they do. Sometimes this lack of understanding has lead to unfair criticism and failure to fully utilize the. There can be little doubt that FEMA finds its self in the middle of controversy, however. They respond when bad thing have happen and every body wish thing had gone perfectly. The reality is that is never going to happen.
Most people don’t realize that FEMA has existed in one form or another since almost the beginning of the country. Most of this time, however, a piecemeal approach was taken. A disaster would occur, Congress would pass an act, and THEN relief would happen. This had been going on since 1803 when wildfires ravaged New England. It was not until 1979did president Carter create it as an Agency to deal with disasters. There were two condition that had to be met before the could become involved however. There must be a state of emergency declared and the Governor of the state must request help.
Fans of the TV show X-file will recall the plot lines referring to FEMA as the shadow government. While not true, there is a kernel of truth in that. During the cold war there always loomed the threat of nuclear war. Can anyone think of a larger disaster than that. It would evolve almost every state and FEMA would be managing the resources so in a way, for that time with that event, it would be true.
After the Cold War and During the 1990′s the FEMA director was elevated to a Cabinet post. Bush Did remove him from the Cabinet but then came 9/11. With that came the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, a Cabinet level position, and FEMA was placed under that umbrella.
Now under the Department of Homeland Security FEMA has had to change a lot of its focus and its use of resources. It was not just like it was during the Cold War. Terrorist attacks are much more likely. They have to plan for hurricanes in the Gulf, wildfires in the west and now the threat of a serin gas attack on a major city or worse a biological attack.