Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

Our office is able to host a REMOTE intern.

TIME ZONE: ET

INDUSTRY: Federal / State / Local Government

WORKING HOURS: There is flexibility regarding which hours the intern works.

ABOUT US: FEMA's mission is to help people before, during, and after disasters. FEMA is a federal agency within the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The FEMA administrator reports directly to the DHS Secretary. The administrator also has a direct line of access to the U.S. President during periods of disaster response. FEMA is comprised of:

  • Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where the Office of the Administrator and various program offices are located.
  • Ten regional offices that work directly with states, territories and tribes.
  • Field offices that manage disaster response and recovery in disaster locations.

RESPONSIBILITIES & PROJECTS: You can expect to work in a variety of areas including disaster response, grants management, logistics operations, and organizational strategy and management.

SPECIALIZED SKILLS: 

  • Coding & Programming, Statistical & Data Analysis
  • FEMA primarily uses R, Python, and Tableau.

WORK ENVIRONMENT: Our core values are fairness, compassion, integrity, and respect. We expect that the people who work with us share and demonstrate those values. We offer a mentoring work environment with a lot of opportunities to learn new things with an emphasis on our intern's preferences.

EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE: 

  • Access to high-speed Wi-Fi

  • Personal laptop
  • Specialized Software for Coding or Data Analytics

2021 Intern Reflection:

During the time I have spent working at FEMA so far, I have learned a lot about how the organization works and about the challenges and complications that are associated with emergency management. After completing several extensive readings and training programs to familiarize myself with the structure of the organization, I have worked with data from the human resources department to analyze levels and causes of employee churn in different departments within FEMA’s office of response and recovery. I have done this for the most part using R, and the project has significantly improved my skills in analyzing and especially visualizing data using the programming language. My typical day at FEMA has been a bit different than what may be considered normal as I worked remotely due to the pandemic. Most of my work was independent so I typically spent the mornings working with HR data in R and creating visualizations and reports. In the afternoon, I would check in with my manager via Zoom and talk about the work I had done and what other analysis may be useful. My manager is an incredibly nice person to talk to and is very generous with their time, so I have learned a lot from them about FEMA itself and about the benefits and limitations of working with data in a government agency. Overall I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work at FEMA this summer, and I would recommend this position to anyone who is considering a career with a government agency, and especially one with FEMA.

- Connor Legget

2020 Intern Reflection:

This summer at FEMA has been an incredibly rewarding experience, even considering the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of working in FEMA’s D.C. headquarters, I have been based at home in Western Massachusetts, joining meetings through platforms like Zoom. As a result, I really appreciated the amount of introductory training I received, as it helped me to understand the size, history, and significance of the agency. Learning more about disaster management has taught me that it is a very complex undertaking, which requires organized cooperation and communication between every level of government and an active understanding of all kinds of different communities.

A typical day working remotely is slightly more constrained than working in the office, due to different levels of security and more controlled access to certain meetings. Even though I was not able to observe departments and teams at work, I have still been able to sit down with so many different FEMA employees over Zoom and phone calls, all of whom have been friendly, enthusiastic about the work they do, and incredibly encouraging. For the past few weeks, I’ve mainly worked on a project within the Human Resources department of FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery. I’ve used R to conduct content analysis of internal and external documentation, with a particular focus on the textual expression of FEMA’s core values. My intern supervisor has been incredibly supportive and helpful throughout the summer, and I’m really excited to present the results of my analysis within my department!

Working at FEMA has been a truly amazing experience, and I’m very grateful to the IOP for providing this opportunity to learn more about federal government and public service!

-Charlotte Berry '22

2019 Intern Reflection:

This summer has been very exciting so far. FEMA is an incredibly large organization, so it has been amazing to get a glimpse into what different branches and teams do on a daily basis while also gaining an understanding of the organization's broader structure and various emergency management principles. One notable element of this internship has been the freedom I have been afforded, even as a college student. My intern coordinator made it clear from the first day that I would be able to select the team I wanted to work with, and that flexibility and freedom to explore cannot be overrated! In general, the work environment is friendly, incredibly supportive, and fairly relaxed, but people take their jobs and the organization's mission quite seriously.

Though there are opportunities available regardless of a student's skillset, I ended up choosing to work with the Data Science Section within the Workforce Management Division, where I have been using R and Keras to build out personnel request models and simulate deployments through FEMA's centralized Deployment Tracking System (DTS). My end goal is to use this simulation to optimize the DTS algorithm (responders get sorted based on various criteria that determine who gets asked for what disaster and when) parameters and thus improve the time it takes for personnel to deploy to disasters and also minimize the numbers of unfulfilled requests made from disaster sites. Doing so has given me insight into machine learning, helped me learn R more seriously, and also gave me a significant role in FEMA's work. I am incredibly lucky to be working on such an interesting problem as an intern, and the people around me have been supportive and more than willing to teach me anything I need to know. FEMA is an exciting place to work, and the exposure to emergency management in a government (but not at all partisan) capacity has been incredible.

Sophie Khorasani '21

2018 Intern Reflection:

This summer has been an incredible opportunity to understand how FEMA operates and to get to be a small part in it. Each morning begins with the daily operations briefing, where we hear about all of the current work the agency is doing and learn about any incoming storms. Although everyone is very serious about their work, oftentimes everyone is joking around while we’re waiting for the briefing to start, and that fun yet dedicated environment continues as I go back to my desk.

I’ve been working in the Business Management Office in the Office of Response and Recovery (ORR), specifically in Human Resources. I’ve been able to use my applied math background on various analysis projects, like creating probability models to help with the hiring process. Before coming to FEMA, I only had experience coding in Python, but since being here I’ve learned how to code in R and I've been able to use it to complete lots of analysis projects. I’ll be presenting one of these projects with the FEMA analytics community in a couple of weeks, which I'm really looking forward to.

Being at FEMA has been such a learning experience, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn and work among such dedicated people!

Olivia Phillips '20

2017 Intern Reflection:

I have so enjoyed my experience at FEMA. 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 I 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.

Jenny Horowitz '19

Washington, D.C.