Environment Subcommittee Seeks FEMA Strategy for Hurricane Season While Continuing Coronavirus Pandemic Response Efforts
Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2020)—Today, Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, and other Subcommittee Members sent a letter requesting a remote video hearing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the actions taken to prepare for the response and recovery efforts associated with multiple natural disasters in the midst of ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis.
“FEMA is the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating preparation, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery from all domestic disasters. As our country continues to navigate this unprecedented public health crisis, FEMA itself is in uncharted territory,” the Members wrote. “With a deadly tornado season already underway, above-average flooding to date, a hurricane season that began on June 1, and wildfire season looming, we are concerned that FEMA may not have the staff and other essential tools to successfully respond to multiple natural disasters during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.”
The Subcommittee’s concerns with FEMA’s preparations stem from the agency’s past challenges in responding to hurricanes and other natural disasters, as uncovered by the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the federal government’s response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Over the past year, the Subcommittee has examined the additional challenges that climate change poses to federal disaster preparedness and recovery, including the link between warmer global temperatures and more intense hurricane and wildfire seasons.
Moreover, as coronavirus cases across the country continue to increase, there have been record-setting floods in Michigan, deadly tornadoes in the Southeastern United States, and forecasts for an above average hurricane season.
On May 20, 2020, FEMA issued guidance to help emergency managers and public health officials prepare for the upcoming hurricane season while continuing to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Although the document outlines key considerations that FEMA and state, local, territorial, and tribal governments need to consider, it is silent on guidance for preparations for wildfire season, flooding, earthquakes, and tornadoes. It also does not reference FEMA’s own preparations for handling these natural disasters.
“As climate change intensifies major weather events, FEMA will continue to face mounting challenges in responding to large catastrophes without adequate resources, including funding, staff, and supplies, and strong leadership,” the Members wrote. “Aside from guidance released by FEMA largely focused on recommendations to state, local, and territorial governments for hurricane season preparations, FEMA has not made public its plans for preparing for and responding to multiple natural disasters in the coming months, including overcoming limitations on resources. This information is vital to prepare for high-intensity natural disasters that may include tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires.”
During congressional briefings on April 21 and 29, 2020, FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that demand for personal protective equipment and other medical equipment still outweighs available supplies.
The Members requested a remote video hearing by June 22, 2020.
Click here to read today’s letter.