Article on FEMA Needing to Learn from History

From the latest issue of the HSAJ, this remarkably candid article by Quinton Lucie: What Comes Around, Goes Around (and Around and Around): Reviving the Lost History of FEMA and its Importance to Future Disasters

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lacks a coherent historical record. Often this results in the agency repeating the mistakes of its past. By creating a comprehensive public record of FEMA and national emergency management efforts over the last half century, FEMA can break its cycle of repeating past failures and rediscover successes that were otherwise lost to current emergency management leadership.

“How FEMA Learned from its Mistakes”

From Federal News Radio: How FEMA Learned from its Mistakes.

When Hurricane Matthew made landfall in the U.S. in early October, it was a chance for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prove it’s learned from its mistakes.

“I think that what you see in Matthew is the maturation of FEMA’s ability to be prepared and then respond to a disaster,” said Joe Nimmich, deputy FEMA director, on Homeland Security Month.

Will Lessons Learned from New Orleans be Applied in Baton Rouge?

After Baton Rouge Flooding, Learning Lessons From New Orleans. Two quotes:

“The silver lining, if there is any silver lining, is that this sits in a large region that has a lot of experience with rebuilding and recovery,” said Mary L. Landrieu, a former United States senator from Louisiana, and a veteran of funding fights during the hurricane recovery. “They don’t have to go far to find experts.”

“The fact is, disaster recovery hasn’t worked well in America, ever,” said Zack Rosenburg, one of the founders of the group, which has done rebuilding work after floods in South Carolina and West Virginia. “It’s an extraordinarily challenging process.” [ Emphasis added by the Diva.]

“The National Strike Force”

The current issue of the Coast Guard’s Journal of Safety and Security at Sea. Proceedings of the Marine Safety and Security Council features articles on the National Strike Force, but there are a host of other great articles on related topics in the issue.  For a free copy (and a free subscription) of the Proceedings click here.

The Proceedings is a nice, slick-paper magazine issued quarterly. The current issue is 98 pages long. Definitely a “keeper” for your library.

Long-Term Economic Outcomes of Disasters

This is the second posting in a row that deals with the long-term outcomes of a disaster, in this case a set of cyclones.  While I think the title of the article is misleading — Emotional Storms Are No Response for Disasters –– it deals with a recent study that shows that government aid and World Bank projects are not enough to spur lasting recovery.

This article in the National Review notes that a new National Bureau of Economic Research paper supplies strong evidence that national economies decline compared with their pre-disaster trend and “do not recover.”

“The data reject hypotheses that disasters stimulate growth or that short-run losses disappear.” The conclusion: Cyclone-hit countries, rich or poor, experience such losses. Places where very big cyclones hit lose 3.7 years of development over the following two decades. This blow compares to a tax increase of 1 percent of gross domestic product, or a currency crisis. * * *

Economies do experience a jolt of growth when governments or private companies, not to mention international nonprofits and agencies, dump cash and rock concerts in the rush that follows tragedy. That jolt may include food, bottled water, and blankets that save lives. But economically, a jolt is just a jolt. The growth is not sustained. The true economic picture, and a negative one, comes clear over the long term, the 10- or twenty-year period. The only reason we have not noticed this ….is that “the gradual nature of these losses renders them inconspicuous to the casual observer.” Politicians think in election cycles, and so do voters, which explains why we may heretofore have found it expedient to ignore any evidence of long-term weakness that came before us.


The Diva would add another reason many people do not know this information and that is because too few longitudinal studies of long-term recovery have been done!

Toronto’s Failure to Assess and Learn from Recent Disaster

From the HuffPost/Canada: What Toronto Should Learn From the Ice Storm Crisis. The importance of after-action reviews ( hotwashes as they are called in the U.S.) and learning from experience are emphasized here.

I did some earlier postings about issues in Toronto at the end of 2013 if you want to review the issues identified during the disaster. The main issue was the lack of a local emergency declaration.

Update on Jan. 9th: a new report calls for requesting a declaration, even at this late date, to aid the recovery process.

Book Review

In its latest set of uploads, the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management just published a review of the recent book Emergency Management, the American Experience, 1900-2010 (2nd edition).

The Diva is the editor of the book so she has a vested interest, but she and the reviewer recommend this as a basic book for those new to the emergency management field. The opening sentence of the review says:

In Emergency Management; The American Experience, Claire Rubin brings together a team of highly esteemed scholars and practitioners to examine the history of emergency management in the U.S., while addressing several important questions regarding the growth and appropriate role of the federal government in respond to disaster events.


The book can be ordered from Disaster Bookstore, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

By the way, the Diva has a great slide set and talk prepared about the contents of the book. If you are looking for a conference speaker or guest lecturer, contact her.