Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards. The sponsor for this project is Office of Response and Recovery (ORR).  The ORR oversees response, recovery, and logistics operations, which span a broad range of emergency management activities in field and office settings.

Emergency Management Resource Planning Analysis and Visualization at FEMA

This project directly supports the following DHS Research Areas: Emergency Preparedness and Response; Community, Commerce & Infrastructure Resilience; and Advanced Data Analysis and Visualization as FEMA continues to research ways to improve resource planning to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of services to disaster survivors.

This project will focus on ORR resource planning, and in particular, using applied mathematics and statistics to build components of forecasting models that predict workforce requirements.  The models will consider factors such as the predicted negative impacts of hazards, and the emergency management resources available, or needed, to respond and recover from those hazards.  Key questions include:

  • What are the expected impacts of hazards?
  • What emergency management resources are available to address the expected impacts?
  • Where are the most vulnerable populations and how can FEMA best match available resources to meet the needs of those populations?
  • What is the best way for FEMA to match resources to requirements?

The intern will work with a team of Emergency Management Specialists who have led and participated in internationally and nationally recognized research projects.  The work atmosphere is collegial with a strong emphasis on collaborative learning to strengthen emergency management practices.  The physical work setting is at an office at FEMA Headquarters, and may involve field data gathering at FEMA locations in the immediate Washington Metro Area.


2017 Intern Reflection: 

I have so enjoyed my experience at FEMA thus far. Last semester I took a course at the Kennedy School on crisis management, and my experience at FEMA has provided an in-depth look at strategies for mitigating natural disasters. I have come to understand the various branches of the organization and the scope of FEMA's significant responsibility. My day typically begins in the morning with an operations briefing, in which I sit in on FEMA’s executive team meeting and daily assessment of potential natural disasters and possible damage that might result. I have been fascinated to observe how the intensity of the meetings ramps up when potential natural disasters become more of a threat. FEMA headquarters across the nation telecast into the meeting to learn of recent developments. Daily life as an intern at FEMA headquarters has been particularly interesting because of the friendly demeanor of the FEMA employees who have been happy to welcome me to the agency for the summer.

In addition to the various tasks in the office, interns are also assigned a personal project that we work on throughout our time at the organization. The personal project asks us to creatively address an issue or problem FEMA faces after developing a knowledge-base of the inner-workings of the agency. Because I lack a STEM background, I was initially concerned about identifying a personal project that contributes to the organization, but with guidance from FEMA staff am happy to have landed on a project I'm very excited about. My personal project utilizes 3D printing to recreate historical sites that might be affected by disaster. My hope is to create an enduring testament to historic locations across America that might be destroyed or severely damaged due to a natural disaster. In addition, by putting this plan into action I hope to reduce the amount of federal funds allocated towards the preservation efforts of historical sites.

I have had a wonderful summer at FEMA and am so grateful to the IOP’s Director’s Internship Program for providing me this wonderful glimpse into federal disaster relief.

2016 Intern Reflection:

The FEMA internship is an incredible opportunity to immerse oneself wholly into the intricate realms of emergency management, disaster relief, and the federal bureaucracy. As an agency, FEMA focuses heavily on hazard mitigation, disaster preparedness, and field response and operations after a declared disaster, through its provision of disaster relief grants to state, tribe, and local governments, as well as its direct housing assistance, mass care, and financial aid to individuals.

As a Director’s Intern, I worked alongside numerous Department of Homeland Security STEM Interns as well as other young, full-time employees under multiple supervisors who genuinely cared about our learning and growing experience at FEMA. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to spearhead a project that reviewed the feasibility of an effectiveness of disaster operations dashboard. The project required me to talk to data experts across multiple directorates about fields as various as staff qualification and training, federal flood insurance coverage, to National Response Coordination Center monitoring activities, to receipt of emergency resources. Other STEM interns worked on individual, graduate-school related projects that represented a partnership between their work and FEMA’s mission. Data analysis and basic programming skills learned through Harvard courses are beneficial at this internship.

In terms of FEMA office culture, supervisors are smart, socially apt, management focused individuals, many with years of emergency management expertise or military experience, and the workforce is diverse, large, and socially active, with a softball league, multiple happy hours and bimonthly dinners.

Leore Lavin '17


Washington, D.C.
Federal /State and Local Government, Research, Technology