You don’t want to deal with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s not because it’s a federal bureaucracy, which is bad enough.
It’s because the only time they come to town is when you’ve suffered a catastrophe: severe weather, wildfires, earthquakes, or various manmade disasters like chemical spills.
You don’t want to deal with them. But it’s a good idea to look at the FEMA website.
The home page is simple and attractive. The site itself is many layers deep and may require some hunting to find exactly what you need to know. It contains information not only for you, the property owner, but also for insurance professionals and other people in other important roles.
The screen shots below (captured June 23, 2015) show what’s in the menus at the top of the home page, and then what you find when you scroll down to the next part of the page.
1. Plan, Prepare & Mitigate
From earthquakes to tornados to hurricanes to local industry, each part of the country is prone to certain kinds of emergencies. You can do plenty to protect yourself before disaster strikes, and you can find advice from this menu.
For example, did you know that your homeowner’s insurance does not cover you for flood damage? If your house is built in a floodplain, you must buy additional flood insurance. It’s something that sellers must disclose. It takes some clicking, but you can find interactive floodplain maps here and zoom into very small areas. You may need to compare with Google maps or something to identify the streets.
Keep in mind that this section of the website has information not only for you, the property owner, but also for surveyors, insurance professionals, and others who need more specialized knowledge. Therefore it can take a lot of clicking from these submenus to find what you’re looking for.
2. Disaster Survivor Assistance
3. Response & Recovery
This section describes legal framework for response to a disaster, the procedures in place for responders to follow, resources for individuals, and descriptions of the responses to well-known major disasters.
4. Topics & Audiences
In the event of a major emergency, volunteers from all over the country rush to help out. If you want to take part in relief efforts, here’s where to find instructions, along with other information that you may or may not find useful.
5. Blog, Newsroom, Videos & Photos
6. About FEMA
What region is your state in? The site doesn’t tell you until you click on the links to find which states are in each region. The regions numbering starts in the northeastern corner of the country, moves south through Region IV.
Then it moves west, but every time I thought I saw a pattern to the numbering, the next region didn’t fit. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are in the same region as New Jersey, not Florida. Logically if the numbering moves north to south, Region X should include California, which is actually in Region IX.
7. Scrolling down
Directly underneath what’s shown in all the previous screenshots you’ll find a map that shows states suffering active disasters and a very brief video about the FEMA app, which includes weather updates from the National Weather Service. Click on the link under the video if you want to download the app.
You can keep scrolling to see more links. It’s a lot easier to find the agency’s recent blog posts and Twitter feeds here than hunt for them from the media menu. At the very bottom of the FEMA website you can find links to the Department of Homeland Security (FEMA’s parent agency), the White House, and the overall federal government home page where you can, after some hunting, find links to the entire federal web presence.
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Photo credit: FEMA