FEMA official emphasizes 'team effort' as hurricane season begins

Representatives from FEMA, NOAA, the military, and the Energy and Homeland Security departments meet with President Obama. Representatives from FEMA, NOAA, the military, and the Energy and Homeland Security departments meet with President Obama. The White House

As the 2012 hurricane season begins, one Federal Emergency Management Agency executive wants to remind American citizens that the onus for keeping them safe doesn’t rest entirely with FEMA.

“It’s a team effort,” FEMA deputy administrator Richard Serino told Government Executive. “It’s not just FEMA. It’s really all of government coming in together. It’s the ability to bring together the team of federal, state, local [responders] . . . We are here to support the governors and the mayors and the cities and towns and states that are affected by a hurricane as they are affected by any disastrous woe.”

The agency currently has a disaster relief fund of more than $2.4 billion, an amount that Serino said has been tracked daily with strong monitoring techniques for at least the past three years.

“We have enough in there to see through the season, unless of course there’s a catastrophic event,” Serino said. He added that a key success in combating 2011’s Hurricane Irene was the ability to predeploy equipment and people to areas where severe weather is expected, an ability granted to FEMA only in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Representatives from FEMA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the military, and the Energy and Homeland Security departments met with President Obama on Wednesday to brief him on the federal government’s approach to hurricane preparedness, and collaboration is the strongest message this year.

In addition to state and local governments, FEMA also will pursue partnerships with faith-based organizations and the private sector. Serino encourages members of the public to visit Ready.gov to gather information on how to best prepare themselves for disasters.

When asked if people trust FEMA enough, Serino said citizens historically trust their local government, friends and neighbors, “and that’s why this has to be a complete team effort.”

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