Is FEMA a Federal Agency with a Regional Focus?

The list of the Top 10 natural disasters on U.S. territory, as measured by disaster-relief expenditures made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, suggests that FEMA largely benefits a limited number of states hit by hurricanes.

In fact, nine of the Top 10 FEMA-funded disasters have either been a hurricane or tropical storm. The 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California, the second most expensive FEMA-funded disaster, is the only one that was not.

Because hurricanes dominate FEMA’s list of most-expensive disasters, seven Gulf Coast and East Coast states, plus Puerto Rico (P.R.) and the Virgin Islands(V.I.), are the most frequent recipients of FEMA aid for disasters of this magnitude.

Florida has received aid in seven of FEMA’s Top 10 disasters. Louisiana has received aid in five. Mississippi has received aid in four. Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania have received aid in three, as have Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Top 10 FEMA Disasters
(In inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars)

1. Hurricane Katrina 2005 Ala., La., Miss. $15.8 B*
2. Northridge Earthquake 1994 Calif. $8.89 B
3. Hurricane Georges 1998 Ala., Fla., La., Miss., P.R., V.I. $2.61 B
4. Hurricane Andrew 1992 Fla., La. $2.46 B
5. Hurricane Hugo 1989 N.C., S.C., P.R., V.I. $2.04 B
6. Hurricane Ivan 2004 Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., N.J., N.Y., Pa., Tenn., W.Va. $2.00 B
7. Hurricane Charley 2004 Fla., S.C. $1.60 B
8. Tropical Storm Allison 2001 Fla., La., Miss., Pa., Tex. $1.50 B
9. Hurricane Frances 2004 Fla., Ga., N.C., N.Y., Ohio, Pa., S.C. $1.46 B
10. Hurricane Jeanne 2004 Del., Fla., P.R., V.I., Va. $1.44 B

*Amount allocated, as of September 26, according to House Appropriations Committee. (Hurricane Rita estimates not yet available.)
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency