Since March 18, FEMA has led the whole-of-America response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We have worked with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as non-governmental organizations and the private sector to fight COVID-19. We have helped deliver millions of supplies, provided over $1.6 billion in disaster relief funds and expanded testing capabilities across the country. The lessons we have learned along the way are essential to the new challenges we face as we enter the hurricane seasons.
Our agency has been making extensive efforts not only to continue normal disaster preparations, but to also prepare for those disasters while the COVID-19 response continues. These efforts may look different as we practice social distancing and continue to slow the spread. To prepare for these new challenges, we released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season. This guidance will help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for the upcoming hurricane season while continuing to respond to COVID-19.
The guidance outlines the anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by the pandemic and highlights planning considerations based on those challenges. It also outlines how we plan to adapt response and recovery operations to create a shared understanding of expectations between FEMA and emergency managers. It includes guidance, checklists and resources to support emergency managers as they adapt their response and recovery planning during this COVID environment.
While the document focuses on the 2020 hurricane season, most planning considerations can be applied to any disaster operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as, flooding, wildfires and more.
In addition to providing guidance, we are actively preparing our workforce and putting plans in place to support state, local, tribal and territorial partners in responding to disasters. These efforts include:
- Sheltering: We are working with partners on their locally implemented, state-managed, and federally supported sheltering planning efforts to ensure the safety and security of all.
- Establishing virtual operations: We have established virtual Joint Field Offices and National and Regional Coordination Centers. These virtual response centers allow us to serve communities after a disaster while still practicing social distancing.
- Inspections: Whenever possible, we will conduct virtual inspections for the agency’s Individual Assistance grants. In addition, joint Preliminary Damage Assessments for Public Assistance may also be conducted remotely.
- Disaster Survivor Assistance: In coordination with state, local, tribal and territorial partners, we will determine the use of Disaster Recovery Centers or Disaster Survivor Assistance teams in accordance with the phased reopening of an impacted area. We may use online and phone registration, as well as virtual assessments to ensure program delivery.
Our team is more prepared than ever to face new and old challenges, to work with our government and non-government partners and to plan for disasters. We are ready. We are FEMA.