Disaster Readiness

January 12, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 2
Is FEMA prepared for weather catastrophes?
By Patrick Marshall


The Thomas Fire near Los Angeles, the largest wildfire in California history (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)
The Thomas Fire near Los Angeles, the largest wildfire in California history, burned nearly 282,000 acres in December, destroyed more than 1,000 structures and was linked to two deaths, including that of a firefighter. In October, wildfires tore through Northern California, killing 44 people. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)

Record-setting weather events devastated large parts of the United States in 2017 and early this year, including deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes in California, ensuing mudslides and hurricanes that flooded the Southeast and obliterated communities in Puerto Rico. The disasters have severely strained the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prompting questions about whether the government is equipped to deal with natural disasters that scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe because of climate change. Some experts argue FEMA needs more money and authority, while others say the main job of disaster relief should be handed over to the states and local governments. The Trump administration has proposed cutting money for programs that supporters describe as crucial to disaster-related preparation and recovery. Meanwhile, mounting debt at the National Flood Insurance Program has renewed calls to stop insuring homeowners who repeatedly rebuild in flood-prone areas. And local governments are facing new pressure to curb development that adds to flood and fire risks.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Disasters and Preparedness
Sep. 04, 2020  Pandemic Preparedness
Jan. 12, 2018  Disaster Readiness
Sep. 22, 2017  Climate Change and National Security
Aug. 02, 2013  Preparing for Disaster
Jun. 25, 2010  Offshore Drilling
Feb. 03, 2006  Rebuilding New Orleans
Nov. 18, 2005  Disaster Preparedness Updated
Dec. 16, 1994  Earthquake Research
Oct. 15, 1993  Disaster Response
Jul. 15, 1988  Slow Progress in Earthquake Prediction
Apr. 12, 1985  Tornadoes
Jul. 16, 1976  Earthquake Forecasting
Mar. 19, 1969  Earthquakes: Causes and Consequences
Aug. 22, 1962  Government Stockpiling
Jan. 18, 1956  Disaster Insurance
Mar. 06, 1952  Mobilization for a Prolonged Emergency
Jul. 01, 1950  Stand-By Laws for War
Jan. 09, 1928  Economic Effects of the Mississippi Flood
May 19, 1927  Mississippi River Flood Relief and Control
Climate Change
Congress Actions
Economic Crises
Emergency Preparedness
Internet and Social Media
Natural Disasters
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Wetlands, Everglades, and Coastal Areas