Organizations Working with Disaster-Impacted Communities Request Community Representative on FEMA National Advisory Council

NLIHC and more than 25 local, state, and national organizations working on disaster recovery policy sent a letter on May 30 to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell requesting the appointment of at least two community representatives to FEMA’s National Advisory Council (NAC). Signatories included the Natural Resources Defense Council, SBP, the National Housing Law Project, the Hispanic Federation, Taproot Earth, Georgia ACT, the Florida Housing Coalition, and the NC Inclusive Disaster Recovery Network, among others.

The NAC is an advisory body that advises FEMA leadership on how to better fulfill the agency’s mission. The Council is made up of over 40 individuals, including elected officials, local and state government employees, tribal officials, and experts in emergency management and related fields. In addition to appointing officials to positions according to explicit regulatory requirements, the FEMA Administrator has the power to appoint some individuals on the basis of the administrator’s own prerogative. In the current application cycle, Administrator Criswell will appoint up to nine new members to serve three-year terms. The NAC meets twice a year for three-day meetings, and members are reimbursed for travel expenses, lodging, meals, and incidentals. 

In 2020, the NAC explicitly told FEMA that its programs exacerbate underlying inequities, especially along lines of race and income, and made recommendations for how the agency could do better, demonstrating that there is some potential for NAC to facilitate equity- and access-related reforms. By bringing in community representatives with lived experiences of disaster, the NAC’s equity-related recommendations can be strengthened in future reports. This request aligns with FEMA’s recent focus on equity, encapsulated in the agency’s most recent strategic plan making the establishing of equity as a foundation of emergency management a major objective.

“The appointment of non-governmental community representatives will ensure that the important input and analysis provided by the NAC will contain the voices of those communities directly impacted by disasters and served by FEMA programs,” reads a portion of the letter. “The lived experience of disaster survivors can and should be highlighted and utilized to improve the utility and pertinence of the NAC’s advice. As dictated within FEMA’s Whole Community approach, all aspects of a community have expertise and perspectives that can contribute to the overall resilience of a community. By ensuring that low-income and disaster impacted communities are represented within the NAC, the council’s discussions can be similarly benefited.”

Read the letter at: