Appalachian biology professor Dr. Shea Tuberty and former FEMA Administrator Brock Long discuss how developing a culture of preparedness fosters resiliency.

Each year, Americans manage the effects of 100,000 thunderstorms; 26,000 severe thunderstorms; 5,000 floods; 1,300 tornadoes; and two deadly hurricanes that make landfall, leading to 650 deaths per year and about $15 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Approximately 98 percent of all presidentially declared disasters are weather-related.

For many, the presence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during these events and their aftermath is a given. Their emblazoned jackets are a standard fixture in media imagery of disaster recovery scenes. A federal agency with a budget north of $16 billion, FEMA has a mission statement that simply reads “helping people before, during and after disasters.”

Communities that face devastation seek to recover and rebuild, and the presence of FEMA, with its recovery and relief expertise — and its funding — is an expectation during and after disaster. Appalachian alumnus Brock Long ’97 and ’99 led the agency from April 2017 to March, streamlining its mission and focusing its emphasis on resiliency.

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Originally published March 19, 2019.