Scrolling casually through my Twitter feed during the last week of December and first week of January is always the same—filled with “year in review” pieces. Prolific publications, government agencies, popular bloggers, even my friends and family members. Everyone has one.
Somehow, we all end up waxing nostalgic about the year that was. Maybe it’s because during the holidays most offices are a little emptier, and we end up with a little more time to fill with some reflection. Maybe it’s the eggnog.
And here we are, one more year done and over with. I find myself, on a personal front, more than ready for a new year. But in terms of the professional, FEMA-minded side of me, there are a few things that I think we can look back on, be proud of, and even look at with a bit of nostalgia.
Here’s a look at just a few of them…
On the disaster front, it was one of the busiest years we’ve seen since 2012. We saw two separate flooding events in Louisiana and substantial flooding in West Virginia. Hurricane Matthew’s destructive path caused five southern states to receive disaster declarations. Wildfires swept across the entire country. And those are just some of the notables.
My colleague Kaylyn put together a great photo essay showing some of the great images from recent disasters, which really shows the impact these disasters have had on impacted communities and the resilience of the people living in them. These photos tell the true stories in ways that anyone can understand.
Along with disasters, we have some recurring preparedness campaigns that we conduct each year that pose their own challenges.
Think things like the National Day of Action, National Preparedness Month, and the Great ShakeOut. They’re are designed to make sure that we’re all ready and able to handle whatever disasters come our way. We had a great year in working to better prepare the country, and each year it astounds me how quickly we start planning for the next one after we’ve finished.
Then there are the new challenges, the ones that seemingly come out of nowhere. This year, a new one brought to us from our Administrator, was to double the number of downloads of our really cool and useful app. The point of the challenge wasn’t about increasing the number of downloads of the app—it was designed to give a wider number of people access to potentially life-saving information – instantly, in the palms of their hands.
A lot of this year was focused on doing things we hadn’t done before. When we held a large-scale exercise to simulate a high-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Northwest in June, we put together a live-blog of the entire event. (I might be slightly biased, but it’s probably one of my favorite things we’ve done on the blog this year and even possibly to date.) We hadn’t simulated an earthquake in that part of the country, at least as far back as my memory goes, and we’d never done a live-blog. Putting the two together just seemed to make sense.
We even welcomed a new search & rescue team this year, New Jersey Task Force 1. Their first deployment as a FEMA team came during Hurricane Matthew, and not long after they got word that they were officially part of our 28-team system.
They, along with our other teams, completed an astonishing number of searches across several disasters and once again demonstrated their determination and bravery. These teams are always there when we need them.
I’ve probably missed something or other in the big list of everything we, as FEMA, have accomplished this year. It’s been a long year with a lot of different accomplishments and instead of being more nostalgic, I know there’s a lot to look forward to in the future.
Have a safe and happy start to your 2017.