Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Mission possible: A failure mode and effect analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

Jeff Nelson, MS, Kiril Hristovski, PhD, MS, Danny Peterson, PhD, CEM


In its report pertaining to the performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during Hurricane Katrina, the US Senate recommended replacing FEMA with a bigger and better organization. Instead of replacing FEMA as a whole, an attempt should be made to scientifically identify and correct any significant gaps within the organizational and operational structure of FEMA based on FEMA’s current mission requirements under the National Response Plan. This article demonstrates the use of Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) methodology for identification, analysis, measurement, and prioritization of the systemic root causes for FEMA’s inadequate mission performance during disasters of Katrina’s magnitude. The article also provides suggestions for the most effective corrective action models for the top five high-risk functions at FEMA identified and prioritized using FMEA.


emergency management, FEMA, FMEA, Hurricane Katrina

Full Text:



FEMA: FEMA history. Available at Accessed May 12, 2006.

FEMA:A nation prepared: Federal emergency management agency strategic plan fiscal years 2003-2008. Available at http://www.fema. gov/pdf/library/fema_strat_plan_fy03-08(append).pdf. Accessed May 14, 2006.

Associated Press: Complex FEMA budget defies consensushurricane’s aftermath. Available at Accessed May 14, 2006.

FEMA:About FEMA:Who we are.Available at Accessed May 10, 2006.

Merle R, Witte G: Lack of contracts hampered FEMA. Accessed September 13, 2007.

FEMA: Annual major disaster declarations totals. Available at Accessed May 14, 2006.

CNN, Homeland security chief defends katrina response.Available at Accessed September 13, 2007.

Foreman T: A disturbing view from inside FEMA. Available at Accessed March 21, 2006.

INVESTING in FEMA: A role for government in protecting opportunity. Available at Accessed September 13, 2007.

Associated Press: Lieberman: FEMA should be dissolved, rebuilt. Available at,2933,185353,00.html. Accessed May 14, 2005.

Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Hurricane Katrina: A nation still unprepared. Available at Accessed May 1, 2006.

US Department of Homeland Security: Department components. Available at http://www.dhs.GOV/xabout/structure/. Accessed September 14, 2007.

Stamatis DH: Failure Mode and Effect Analysis: FMEA from Theory to Execution (Second edition). Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press, 2003.

Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security: A performance review of FEMA’s disaster management activities in response to hurricane Katrina. Available at Accessed May 16, 2006.

US House of Representatives, Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina:A failure of initiative: The final report of the select bipartisan committee to investigate the preparation for and response to hurricane Katrina. Available at Accessed May 15, 2006.

Kauffman T: Best and worst places to work: How your agency stacks up. Available at Accessed September 13, 2007.

US Office of Personnel Management: FY 2000 budget Justification/Performance plan. Available at Accessed July 06, 2006.

US Senate, Committee on Governmental Affairs: Nomination of Michael D. Brown to be deputy director of the federal emergency management agency. Available at Accessed August 8, 2006.

Lewis DE: Political appointees and federal management performance. Available at Accessed October 7, 2006.

Department of Homeland Security: National response plan. Available at Accessed May 15, 2006.

First Response Coalition: The imminent storm 2006: Vulnerable emergency communications in eight hurricane prone states. Available at Accessed July 12, 2006.

First Response Coalition: Fixing the radios for all of us: Target date for national communications interoperability. Available at Accessed July 12, 2006.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Emergency Management