Do FEMA reservists have sufficient training when going into harm’s way?

The training regime of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recently undergone a review from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, which was released on March 22, 2013, claimed that in 2012, FEMA announced that it intended to overhaul its reservist program so that it would now include two weeks of training for its on-call deployment force. The federal agency, which relies heavily on reservists to staff disaster response operations, has yet to incorporate that training, according to the 2013 report from the GAO.

"Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA is tasked with leading the nation in mitigating, responding to, and recovering from major disasters, both natural and man-made. To carry out its mission, FEMA relies heavily upon its Reservist Program, an on-call reserve workforce that is deployed when needed to assist disaster survivors. As of February 2013, there were 6,795 reservists, who constituted 36 percent of FEMA's disaster workforce. In April 2012, FEMA announced that it was transforming its reservist workforce, formerly known as Disaster Assistance Employees. Among other things, the transformation to the Reservist Program transitioned reservist assignments from a regionally based structure to a nationally managed program," the GAO study authors wrote.

"Congress asked GAO to assess FEMA's reservist workforce training. Our objective was to examine how FEMA's reservist workforce training compares with training of other similar agencies, and to what extent FEMA has examined these agencies' training programs to identify useful practices," the authors added. 

Hurricane Sandy was one of the greatest natural disasters to befall the United States since Katrina. In October 2012, Sandy made its debut in New Jersey and left extensive flooding, number of dead, injuries and property damage across the nation's East Coast. In that one disaster situation, more than 2,300 FEMA personnel were working to support response operations. Jobs fell in a number of different categories like search and rescue, clean up, communications and additional support.

From 2007 to 2012, there have been 422 federal disaster declarations. FEMA reservists are an essential component of emergency response, dedicating themselves tirelessly is support of disaster recovery and assistance.  In many cases, these individuals place themselves in harm's way to effect or support a rescue, yet they lack sufficient training for the perils of the job.

The GAO has found that in comparison to other similar agencies, like the U.S. Coast Guard, the Forest Service and the SBA, the agency has not implemented new training procedures or even evaluated the processes deployed by these groups to effectively gauge its training standards. Fierce Homeland Security reports that FEMA had called on the assistance of 6,795 reservists as of February 2013 to deal with natural disasters since 2007. Reservists currently encompass about 36 percent of the agencies disaster workforce, according to the GAO.

Fierce Homeland Security reports that lack of training has been a long-standing complaint among reservists who are sent out into the field.

Without adequate training, how are reservists, who put their lives on the line to help save their fellow man, able to ensure that safety procedures are properly followed? Training ensures that both the reservists and the populace impacted by a disaster remain safe during evacuations from disaster-stricken areas. Proper training compliance isn't simply a matter of checking a box, it is essential to saving lives and ensuring that everyone who is sent out into a hot zone knows how and when to act.  We owe it to these brave men and women to provide them with the funding, training and tools they need to effectively perform their difficult jobs.

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2017-05-30T10:33:53+00:00 May 2nd, 2013|Homeland Security|