FEMA has just released its “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Initial Assessment Report” which assesses the agency’s initial response to the global pandemic. Highlighted items in the report show the challenges the agency faced, including needing to clarify roles and authorities between responding agencies and managing complex interagency coordination while still protecting its own workforce.
The report covers FEMA’s response from mid-March through Sept. 30, 2020 and provides 32 key findings and 57 recommendations in five areas. FEMA partnered with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other federal agencies to better manage the complex logistical operations. To drastically speed up the arrival of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the domestic market, FEMA chartered privately owned planes for medical distributors, reducing the transit time between manufacturer and customer from 30–45 days via ocean freight to approximately five days via air freight. Project Airbridge chartered 249 flights over a span of 92 days and delivered roughly 1.73 billion units of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to prioritized areas.
While coordinating the federal COVID-19 response, FEMA responded to multiple disasters. The year 2020 was the most active Atlantic hurricane season in history with 25 named Atlantic Ocean storms, three of which were declared major disasters across seven states.
FEMA’s COVID-19 operations led to innovations for coordination with government and non-government partners on implementing national distribution networks and innovative solutions to data management and analysis and manufacturing and procuring scarce resources. The agency’s adaptive workforce enabled it to facilitate an effective operational response to the pandemic.
The report findings and recommendations will be used to inform FEMA and the emergency management community and improve existing and future responses to pandemics. The Initial Assessment Report represents part of FEMA’s continuous improvement process, helping the agency learn faster and to communicate to the emergency management community where there are opportunities to build greater capacity.
[Thanks to Dana Bres for this citation.]
Note that current TV news indicates that FEMA is scheduled to have a major role in the distribution of the vaccine during the Biden administration.