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FEMA Celebrates 30th Anniversary

FEMA, 30 Years of Commitment

April 2009 marks the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 30th anniversary. Since 1979, FEMA has sought to reduce the loss of life and property when disaster strikes the United States. Over the years, FEMA has responded to a myriad of national disasters ranging from Three Mile Island to Hurricane Hugo to the Northridge Earthquake to the September 11th attacks to the Midwest floods of 2009.

Established in an Executive Order by President Jimmy Carter, FEMA consolidated many federal emergency management programs, agencies and functions that had been in the Federal Insurance Administration, the National Fire Prevention and Control Administration, the National Weather Service Community Preparedness Program, the Federal Preparedness Agency of the General Services Administration and the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration activities from Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Also civil defense responsibilities also were transferred to the new agency from the Defense Department's Defense Civil Preparedness Agency.

FEMA can loosely trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. This act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to Portsmouth, N.H., following an extensive fire. In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. By the 1930s, the federal approach to problems became popular, but it continued to be a piecemeal approach to disaster assistance. Eventually, this prompted legislation requiring greater cooperation between federal agencies and authorized the president to coordinate these activities, thus FEMA was born. In March 2003, FEMA joined 22 other federal agencies, programs and offices in becoming the Department of Homeland Security. The new department brought a coordinated approach to national security from emergencies and disasters – both natural and man-made. FEMA continues to evolve and strengthen – leading and supporting the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation.