U.S Disaster Response: Past, Present



As of recent, natural disasters have had a profound impact on the US, affecting thousands of people, and causing massive amounts of damage in various states. Events such as the California wildfires, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and in total 16 natural disasters have swept through the US just in 2017 alone. In total, these events have done around 306 billion dollars in damage ( My main questions are: how does the US government deal with the aftermath of these disasters? How do they pay for them? Are they effective, and overall how has the US government dealt with these situations throughout history.



Historical Background:

For the most part, until 1979, the approach to disaster recovery has been unchanged. Since the beginning of this country, disaster response had been privatized; handled by local governments, communities would rebuild without much help from the federal government. Prior to this date, disaster management in the United States was a mixture of on-the-spot legislation, local, state and federal agencies and volunteer groups. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dealt with some aspects of disaster mitigation, while other government agencies provided insurance for damages caused by disaster. Eventually, more that 100 agencies were set up to deal with disasters (Grabianowski, Ed. “How FEMA Works.”). One example of private disaster response that was super effective, was the response to the 1906 earthquake and fire in San francisco. Aid poured in from across the country, with millionaires such as Andrew Carnegie making major contributions. The Southern Pacific Railroad evacuated 200,000 people from the city at no charge. Home-products company Johnson and Johnson rushed in free supplies. Insurance companies paid out the vast majority of claims for the 90 percent of all property owners who had policies. The Red Cross and other charities also provided relief (“Why Ending FEMA Will Improve Disaster Response”). Disaster response was mainly local and it seemed to be effective, but one of the first times the federal government got involved and lent a helping hand was when a Congressional Act was passed to provide financial assistance to a New Hampshire town devastated by fire in 1803 (Fema, “The Historical Context of Emergency Management”). From that point on the federal government became more involved with disaster mitigation, but it did not yet have full control of all operations. Another example of government intervention that was important was a significant piece of emergency management legislation that was passed by Congress. The Flood Control Act of 1934 gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased authority to design and build flood control projects. The Flood Control Act of 1934 was created in response to the floods that had been occuring during that time. This was just another example of disaster response shifting toward being entirely controlled by the government. Overall, disaster response in the U.S had been mainly private and decentralized, but slowly overtime, it has shifted into being almost completely controlled by the government.



Modern Day Problem:

Since 1979, disaster response has been controlled by FEMA.




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