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What Can We Learn from This Year’s FEMA National Preparedness Report?

This year FEMA released its latest National Preparedness Report. The Report provides an overview of the nation’s current disaster risk and capability landscape.

So, what can we learn from this year’s national preparedness report that’s transferrable to the year ahead? Read on to find out.

Headlines from this year’s national preparedness report

The big takeaway from the 2023 iteration of the National Preparedness Report, the 12th of its kind, is the increasing frequency, severity, and cost of disasters.

Although the numbers should come as no surprise to emergency managers in the U.S. and elsewhere, they are still staggering.

According to the report, 60 climate-related disasters caused 1,460 fatalities and 2,939 injuries over the two-year period ending December 2022. Besides those tolls, the disasters themselves each cost at least USD 1 billion, a significant increase over prior decades.

To put these numbers in relief, FEMA notes that whereas in 2016, the agency was managing 30 major disasters in 18 joint field offices (JFOs), by 2023, FEMA was managing 71 major disasters in 25 JFOs.

Add to that, FEMA is now in its sixth year of operating with higher average daily deployments, with responders having doubled from the pre-2017 period.

The National Preparedness Report also tracks stark increases in community-level risk

Given the level of incidents, it’s no surprise that community-level risk has risen, as well.

Here, the Report notes that communities themselves identified cyberattacks, pandemics, and floods as most likely to occur. Meanwhile, they acknowledged that cyberattacks, pandemics, and earthquakes were most stressful for one or more capabilities.

Another factor compounding risk and increasing costs from natural hazards around the world is the inconsistent adoption of building codes.

In the U.S., for instance, two out of three communities have yet to incorporate the latest building codes, responsibility over which falls to state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments.

This decentralization, opines FEMA, results in a wide variation in the adoption of model building codes and retention of hazard-resistant provisions in these model codes, code enforcement and administration mechanisms, and funding for enforcement, administration, outreach, and support.

Recommendations to mitigate risk in 2024

So, what can be done to better prepare for 2024?

Here, FEMA recommends expanding guidance on addressing climate impacts and conducting educational awareness campaigns to help share existing resources for building codes and infrastructure upgrades, cybersecurity, and training.

Building on that, FEMA points out that federal agencies’ own goals should align to and support long-term mitigation efforts addressing communities’ top five most challenging threats and hazards: cyber-attacks, pandemics, floods, active shooters, and earthquakes.

Further steps include:

  • Investing more in coordination and communication systems with private sector entities
  • Improving federal interagency coordination and data collection
  • Providing systems for sharing data across the government
  • Increasing collaboration opportunities, such as through more frequent, higher-quality exercises.

For entities and agencies, this risk picture makes the need to upgrade emergency management and planning software more urgent than ever. But if you’re not convinced, download our free guide: 5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Emergency Management Software Platform for more. 

Download Guide 5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Emergency Management Software Platform