FEMA Turns to the Cloud to Deal With Natural Disasters of 2017

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The prevalence and magnitude of natural disasters made 2017 a challenging time at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Extreme weather events — the wildfires in California, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and twisters — wracked up a sum of $306 billion in damage in the United States in 2017, making it the most costly year on record for natural disasters in the country, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

FEMA is responsible for responding to those disasters and helping citizens get back on their feet. More and more, the agency is turning to the cloud to help it scale its response, so that it can access data faster and deliver services more efficiently.

Using the Cloud to Scale Up Resources
Technology is crucial to helping FEMA fulfill its mission, according to FEMA CTO Ted Okada. “In our mission statement, we are to support citizens and first responders, state and local government, but first and foremost, survivors of disasters. When I think customers, I think of those survivors who are in the disaster zone and how do I meet their needs best?” Okada told FedScoop last month.

“We work as a team — the back office is the front office — from solution design or early problem identification or pain points, all the way through how that translates into a solution and long-term infrastructure,” he added.

The enormity of the 2017 disasters forced FEMA to ramp up its response across the board. It also required a synchronous increase in technology infrastructure. “The challenge about this year in particular is scalability,” Okada told FedScoop. “We’ve had to take our entire infrastructure and scale it to literally millions of people to register for assistance.”

FEMA was tasked with dispersing billions of dollars in assistance to target populations and provide them with housing very quickly, Okada said, and then repeat that process over several major disasters.

“We are having to scale this beyond what we’ve ever scaled before,” he said. “Now we’re going to have to sustain it for many, many years ahead. So, when we say we need processes that are measurable and manageable, it’s also about them being repeatable, sustainable, scalable.”

Moving resources to the cloud has allowed FEMA to scale its operations and response, Okada said. “I’d say the hidden benefit is actually what we’ve done in raw engineering inside our IT shops … with internal databases,” he added.

The biggest challenge for FEMA has been scaling its internal financial systems. “Cloud computing can be a catchall phrase, but really, it’s about how you get databases to perform faster and deliver that content faster via the web,” he said. “We are in a situation where we now can begin to modernize a lot of those databases to perform much more effectively than in the past.”

If your business is considering a cloud solution give EnhnacedTECH a call at 714-970-9330 or contact us at [email protected]

Samantha Keller

Director of Marketing and PR at EnhancedTECH
Samantha Keller (AKA Sam) is a published author, tech-blogger, event-planner and mother of three fabulous humans. Samantha has worked in the IT field for the last fifteen years, intertwining a freelance writing career along with technology sales, events and marketing. She began working for EnhancedTECH ten years ago after earning her Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and attending Fuller Seminary. She is a lover of kickboxing, extra-strong coffee, and Wolfpack football.Her regular blog columns feature upcoming tech trends, cybersecurity tips, and practical solutions geared towards enhancing your business through technology.
Samantha Keller

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