FEMA: People Must Protect Themselves From Disasters
In a recent interview, Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor said Americans must assume more responsibility for protecting themselves from the rising toll of natural disasters. Ahead of the next hurricane season, Gaynor said the agency has made changes to better handle increasingly severe storms, and Congress has given FEMA the ability to spend more money preparing communities for disaster, which is more cost-effective than rebuilding afterward.
However, Gaynor said those changes won’t be enough, noting, “We cannot be everything to everyone. This is a partnership.” He added, “Our programs don't make you whole, and that's probably one thing that we need to say more often. We would like to be more direct with survivors about what their responsibility is.” According to Gaynor, state and local officials also need to do more, starting with imposing tougher building codes.
The escalating threat from unstable weather means that more people should carry flood insurance, Gaynor said. After Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in August 2017, the average payout in emergency disaster assistance was about $4,000, he said. But for people with flood insurance, the average was $130,000.