State recovery, and NEW! Lessons Learned from FEMA’s Initial Response to COVID-19

response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA worked closely with theU.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other Federal agencies to facilitate the shipment of PPE and ventilators. However, the magnitude of the global event exposed weaknesses in FEMA’s resource request system and allocation processes. Specifically, WebEOC — the system FEMA used to process resource requests including those for PPE and ventilators — contained unreliable data to inform allocation decisions and ensure requests were accurately adjudicated. This occurred because FEMA did not develop controls to validate requests and prevent incomplete, inaccurate, or duplicate data entries; nor did FEMA ensure WebEOC users received training on proper use of the system. In addition, although FEMA developed a process to allocate the limited supply of ventilators, it did not have a similarly documented process for PPE.


Finally, FEMA did not have strategic guidance clearly outlining the roles and responsibilities used to lead the Federal response. FEMA’s decision to prioritize ongoing pandemic response efforts without updating its written guidance and strategic plans hindered FEMA’s coordination efforts.


To its credit, FEMA evaluated its COVID-19 response operations, identifying similar key findings and recommendations aimed at improving current and future responses, including making updates to its WebEOC system.

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