FEMA publishes inaugural response and recovery review for 2023

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Overview of FEMA’s 2023 response and recovery efforts

In 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) faced a series of unique disasters, from natural calamities in Guam, Maui, and Vermont, to supporting over 100 new disaster responses, including 84 presidentially declared events.

This unprecedented challenge led to FEMA providing more than $1.3 billion in direct assistance to survivors.

The newly released Office of Response and Recovery Year in Review report for 2023 details these efforts, spanning across the continental United States, Caribbean, Western Pacific, and Alaska.

The report underscores the agency’s increased operational tempo in response to the changing climate.

Since 2016, the number of staff deployed to support survivors has more than doubled.

In 2023, FEMA deployed an average of 7,113 responders annually and collectively spent over 1.3 million days responding to disasters.

Their dedication was pivotal in distributing essential support and resources to aid survivors and communities in their recovery process.

FEMA administrator’s perspective on 2023’s challenges and achievements

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell reflected on the agency’s performance over the past year: “As an agency and as a nation we faced numerous devastating disasters in 2023.

“In light of the destruction, the FEMA workforce found opportunities for collaboration and areas for ingenuity to better support survivors and their communities.

“This year in review is a glimpse into the important work conducted in 2023 to help people during some of their hardest moments.

“We will take these experiences and lessons with us to help more people, more effectively in 2024.”

In 2023, FEMA introduced new methods to prioritize people and remove obstacles for disaster assistance.

The Recovery Directorate used a process to identify and support applicants who required proactive help in navigating FEMA’s recovery programs.

This initiative resulted in over $60 million in additional funds for survivors.

Additional improvements to enhance the survivor experience included simplified letters for assistance applicants and the creation of the first Pre-Disaster Housing initiative, in partnership with the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development, to provide reliable and safe housing for disaster survivors.

Innovative approaches and rapid response in disaster recovery

Anne Bink, Associate Administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery, commented on the office’s performance: “The Office of Response and Recovery has done truly remarkable work over this past year.

“We continue to lean forward proactively, and we strive to integrate response and recovery immediately following an incident.

“To ensure expedited recovery for survivors, we pre-deployed our Disaster Survivor Assistance teams to Florida, and registered survivors for assistance within four hours of President Biden’s Major Disaster Declaration after Hurricane Idalia.

“In 2024, we will continue to work to ensure that FEMA is ready to meet the mission, no matter when, where, or how disaster strikes.”

FEMA’s response was highly effective throughout the year, particularly during the historic Hawaii wildfire in August 2023, where search and rescue operations covered over 2,000 structures.

The ongoing recovery effort remains focused on delivering technical assistance and coordinating efforts across federal agencies.

In Mississippi, following the spring tornadoes, FEMA staff were onsite within hours, closely collaborating with the state emergency management agency.

Within two weeks of the major disaster declaration, over $7.7 million in federal assistance was approved for survivors.

FEMA’s engagement with numerous faith-based groups and community-based organizations ensured comprehensive support for affected communities.

IFSJ Comment

The Office of Response and Recovery’s Year in Review report for 2023 released by FEMA provides a comprehensive overview of the agency’s efforts in facing an array of unprecedented disasters.

FEMA’s increased operational capacity and innovative approaches have been instrumental in providing vital assistance to survivors and aiding in their recovery.

The agency’s commitment to enhancing the survivor experience, its rapid deployment in disaster-stricken areas, and the successful integration of response and recovery operations demonstrate its dedication to its mission.

The focus on proactive support, technological advancements, and building resilient communities sets a commendable precedent for future disaster management and recovery efforts.

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