How FEMA Director Craig Fugate Wants to Reshape Disaster Management

If you’ve never heard of Craig Fugate, that’s probably best for all involved. Most people only know the names of directors of the Federal Emergency Management Agency when something goes badly wrong—just ask Michael “Heck of a Job” Brown, who led the organization during Hurricane Katrina. “My joke has been my entire career, I’m that individual when things go south. You gotta fire somebody, so I’m the guy you’re gonna fire,” Fugate says.

Since his appointment and confirmation to lead FEMA at the start of the Obama administration, Fugate has been largely out of the public eye. That’s despite several major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy and a string of deadly hurricanes in 2011. (In fact, 2011 saw an unprecedented 99 federal major disaster declarations.) Within the emergency-response community, however, he’s well-known for his philosophy of “whole-community response,” which seeks to decentralize disaster management from the federal government and involve the private sector, volunteers, and private citizens. The idea is aimed at solving some of the glaring weaknesses in how the government responds to disasters, flaws that were exposed most clearly by Katrina.

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