FEMA: How can organizations like FEMA organize its decision process to minimize future disasters from the perspective of organization design and decision-making?

by Idalia Stillman, June 2014

3000 words

10 pages



This article is meant to discuss such issues as FEMA`s organization design and decision-making problems. Management problems and major management principles were discussed in the current article. FEMA was chosen as national organization that provides safety to the nation by providing special safeguard measures such as informing about disasters, providing national preparedness trainings and hazard mitigation assistances. Hereby, all the organization design aspects were visually demonstrated by the example of such influential organization.

The article was divided into different parts. These parts contained introduction to the problem, the main statement of the major management principles to be applied, the principles analysis and conclusion.

Keywords: organization design, FEMA, management Title


The main question of the article is whether FEMA may have overlooked the importance of organization design and whether this design is efficient enough. This issue can be found in The Public Manager academic journal:

In the wake of the poor government response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, many questions have been asked about why the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), along with a host of other federal, state, and local emergency management agencies, performed so ineffectively. What went wrong? What is the future of the agency? How can a recurrence of the Katrina debacle be prevented (Sylves, R, 2008)?

As it can be seen, the article reacts negatively to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina that caused many destruction (total damage was estimated at $108 billion) to the habitants from Florida to Texas (Knabb, R.D., 2005). Thus, what was the reason of such inefficient preparation for the hurricane that was observed in 2005?

Another citation of FEMA`s inefficiency during Hurricane Katrina should be given as an instance:

When the hurricane first made landfall, the country initially reacted with a “sense of relief” because the “most populated areas had been spared the full brunt of the storm.” After a few days, however, it became apparent that flood waters would swamp both urban and rural areas, leaving thousands without power, food, water, or the possibility of evacuation (Roberts, S. P., 2006).

So, what is the actual organization-design of FEMA? Should the more radical changes be made by the agency in order to provide more efficient protection system?

Before all of these important questions will be answered it is necessary to develop the meaning of the organization design itself. Firstly, design management as a part of the organization design should be discussed. Design management is a business discipline that encompasses the on-going processes, business decisions, and strategies (Design management institute). In fact, this discipline understanding helps to create efficiently-designed products (or services) and provide organizational success.

FEMA (The Federal Emergency Agency) is an organization that was created in order to support the US citizens and to ensure a protection against all hazards. The beginning of the Agency can be considered as a part of the Congressional Act in 1803 (FEMA, 2012). General consideration of the first piece of disaster legislation was considered by this act. Particular Act provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire (FEMA, 2012). That situation …

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