FEMA’s Natural Disaster Preparedness and Response Efforts During the Coronavirus Pandemic
On Friday, July 24, 2020, at 9:00 a.m., Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hybrid hearing with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter T. Gaynor to examine FEMA’s preparedness to simultaneously respond to anticipated natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts have predicted above-average hurricane, flooding, wildfire, and tornado seasons this year, as well as extreme heat concerns stemming from projections that 2020 is expected to be the hottest year on record—with all of these expected climate disasters overlapping with the national emergency of the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, FEMA is facing staffing shortages and challenges in staff training as well as a lack of essential supplies and medical equipment due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In addition, throughout the pandemic, FEMA has informed the Committee of their struggle to adequately procure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE), which will be essential to protecting disaster survivors and FEMA employees from the coronavirus in natural disaster scenarios.
Previous Committee investigations on FEMA’s response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma have raised concerns about the agency’s preparedness to respond to multiple natural disasters, even before the coronavirus pandemic. The Subcommittee will examine the steps FEMA has taken to overcome past serious challenges to its response and recovery efforts, such as a lack of standing contracts and poor distribution of essential goods, and the agency’s own after-action reports.