Pete Gaynor, FEMA administrator May 2020.

For the first time in the 41-year history of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, we are responding to an event that has impacted all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia. The COVID-19 pandemic transformed our daily lives and the field of emergency management within a matter of weeks. With hurricane season soon upon us, many have asked if FEMA is ready to respond to another large-scale disaster as we continue our work in support of the whole-of-America response to this unprecedented pandemic. I can confidently say “yes.”

My answer is not based on wishful thinking; it is based on our experience, current planning and application of the lessons we are learning as we respond to the coronavirus. My high confidence is also based on the performance I have witnessed by our federal departments and agencies, nongovernmental partners, organizations, private-partners, states, localities, tribes and territories. They have all performed admirably, and we are proud to be associated with them.

Working with all levels of the federal government and the private sector to support state, local, tribal and territorial governments during this pandemic has helped strengthen our communication foundations for future disasters. I want to reassure the nation that FEMA continues to take deliberate and proactive steps to safeguard our ability to respond and recover.

  • We acquired additional space to expand our capacity at our National Response Coordination Center, where multiple agencies manage federal support for major incidents and emergencies with the affected regions throughout the country.
  • The agency is well-positioned to provide financial reimbursements. Nearly $6 billion has been obligated for the COVID-19 response and approximately $80 billion remains in the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • Even with more than 3,100 FEMA employees supporting the coronavirus response, we can rely on our 20,000 employees who are committed emergency managers. Since 2015, we increased our national workforce by 43%, adding roughly 1,200 people per year on average. We continue to hire, for anyone interested in joining our team.
  • FEMA has the unique opportunity to implement a surge capacity of thousands of employees from across the federal workforce willing to serve with our agency during times of disaster.
  • By the middle of this month, we will release the “COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season” to highlight planning considerations for states, localities, tribes and territories while responding to COVID-19. This will include planning considerations for evacuations.
  • We are prepared with plenty of resources, and we have replenished supplies in our distribution centers across the country with water and shelf-stable meals. Additionally, we have meals in vendor-managed inventory, purchased by FEMA but stored in a vendor warehouse, above and beyond the number of meals we normally stock in our distribution centers.

Preparedness is not just a federal responsibility; every American has a role to play. For our response to work, it needs to be locally executed, state-managed and federally supported.

Prepared citizens will lead to better-prepared families in our neighborhoods, cities and towns, ensuring that states, territories and tribes will be truly ready for challenges that come with disasters. I urge every citizen to act today to ready themselves and their families for potential disasters in their communities. As demonstrated in our battle with COVID-19, preparedness can and will make the difference.

Please visit for tips about how to make plans to prepare your family. And be sure to follow the health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

During this outbreak, I have been heartened at how we have been able to continue to transform how we work, day-by-day or even minute-by-minute to meet our mission. But we can’t do it alone; we need the whole community and partners like you, the American people.

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Pete Gaynor is administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.