International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


Activities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Central America and the Caribbean

The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an agency of the United States government (USG) that is dedicated to the principles of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in dealing with disasters. FEMA is currently involved in sharing these principles with the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic through various development projects. This involvement is the result of an agreement that was signed between FEMA and another USG agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on September 29, 1999. The agreement followed the passage of a law in the United States Congress that directed the participation of FEMA in the reconstruction efforts in Central America and the Caribbean and provided FEMA with $3 million over a two year time period.

The involvement of FEMA in the reconstruction efforts includes projects at both the national government and local levels. At the local level, FEMA is in the process of developing Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities pilots in each country. In-country assistance by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) trained in Project Impact strategies as well as visits from U.S. Project Impact experts will serve to implement the Project Impact initiatives in the countries. The primary NGO partners include the Catholic Relief Services, Cooperative Housing Foundation, Pan American Development Foundation, and the Dominican Association for the Mitigation of Disasters.

At the national government level, technical assistance is provided by sharing FEMA’s experience in the planning and execution of emergency management functions. This includes the establishment of a national emergency plan, emergency operations centers, state and local partnerships, and capacity building. The comprehensive technical assistance package offered by FEMA also includes the assistance of FEMA employees. These FEMA personnel possess specific skills that are utilized by reviewing relevant materials and also by traveling to the countries.

While the specific projects that emerge from FEMA’s technical assistance will vary among the countries, the major goals of FEMA are to help enhance the role, authority, and capabilities of the emergency management agencies in each country; analyze and refine national emergency management plans that coordinate the activities of the different agencies in each national government; design efficient emergency operations centers that are capable of processing the information received from the equipment being placed in the countries; and initiate pilot Project Impact communities that are actively working to protect themselves from disasters and serve as models to other communities. The pilot communities include Berlin and Ulsulatan in El Salvador, Pespiri and La Lima in Honduras, Bluefields, Chinandega and Esteli in Nicaragua, Jacmel in Haiti, and Tomayo/Vincente, Nobles/Jacquimeyes and Haina in the Dominican Republic.

As a vehicle for formalizing its technical assistance, FEMA joined with USAID and USAID/OFDA to hold an Emergency Management Summit June 5-9, 2000 at the FEMA training facility in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This meeting included representatives of the emergency management institutions and NGO partners of the six countries. The meeting allowed FEMA to efficiently provide these countries with direct access to its knowledge base and its emergency management experts.

It also allowed the country representatives to further refine their goals and the methods to achieve them, and gave them an opportunity to continue to work together with their neighbors to share their experiences and lessons learned. At the conclusion of this meeting, participants have a better understanding of the next steps that can be accomplished in each country with the continued support of USAID, USAID/OFDA, and FEMA.

Additional information concerning FEMA’s activities in the region maybe acquired by contacting George Haddow, Program Manager, at