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Projects

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Save lives and build more resilient communities using data analytics

Enabling FEMA Region 9 to take a more comprehensive approach to assessing readiness, risk, and performance of essential functions, make more effective and cost-efficient decisions on billions of dollars invested on an annual basis for life-saving priorities, and use the best available data to manage and improve programs as a regular way of doing business.

About FEMA

FEMA Region 9, based out of Oakland, California, is the lead federal agency for supporting people before, during, and after disasters in the Southwestern and Pacific United States. This work entails leading and supporting disaster preparedness, grants management, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts in partnership with California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and 157 Tribal Nations. The Region and its partners prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from a wide range of threats and hazards, including hurricanes and typhoons, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding, and acts of terrorism, among other natural and man-made disasters.

The FEMA Regions are responsible for executing the full breadth of FEMA’s programs and serve as the front-line interface supporting FEMA’s state/territory, tribal, and local partners. This includes supporting efforts to identify and evaluate threats and hazards, estimate capability requirements and current capabilities, develop and review mitigation and response plans, and administer billions of dollars in grants annually.

The Region managed the delivery of more than $23 billion in support of these efforts since 2017 alone. The Region also has an innovation-oriented culture and history, and frequently drives changes in emergency management that are implemented nationwide.

The challenge

How might we apply expertise in data management and analytics to help the nation pioneer the future of emergency management, save lives and livelihoods during disasters, and build more resilient communities?

While there is a broad array of data that exists in different FEMA systems, and the COVID-19 response revealed that partners are willing to share data, FEMA faces challenges in syncing data across different programs and systems and proactively identifying and building the most efficient ways for collecting and utilizing data from various sources internal and external to the Agency. Despite being best positioned to act on the significant amount of data FEMA has access to, Regions lack the capability to properly process it. Recent experiences with COVID-19 highlight the need to develop a strategic approach for data management and analysis in advance of disasters, especially at the Regional level.

In response, FEMA’s National Preparedness Division is establishing a new branch focused on data management and analytics, which will serve as a shared, cross-divisional, enterprise-wide service hub and center of excellence that supports all Regional programs. The Presidential Innovation Fellow will work closely with Regional leadership to establish the new branch and will help the Region adopt best practices for data management and analytics.

The Fellow will help establish a centralized and well-organized strategic approach for data management and analytics, and will help lead the development of a qualified, dedicated team to support those efforts. Enhanced data management and analytic capabilities will allow the Region to realize significant efficiencies, using risk-informed planning to more effectively direct investments toward projects that build resilience and capacity among the Region’s partners. This will also help the Region take a more data-driven approach to measure success across different levels of the organization, as well as reduce complexity by better linking internal strategic and operating plans, budgets, staffing, and readiness and performance metrics.

The data management and analytics challenges the Region currently faces are a microcosm of those faced by the Agency at large, and the Region’s efforts to address these challenges will serve as a pilot case, generating best practices and lessons learned that will be applied to the entire agency. The fellow will work closely with the Region’s National Preparedness Division Director, Chief of Staff, and the Regional Administrator, and would be empowered to propose and enact practical solutions that can be accomplished in near, mid, and long-term timelines and help set forth an achievable multi-year strategy.

While the Region is familiar with some methods and best practices, the fellow will be fully empowered to bring innovative ideas and solutions to the table. The Region has resources available in terms of hardware, software, licenses, contract support, and personnel that may be required, and the fellow will directly brief the Regional Administrator on recommendations. Once approved, the Regional Administrator will resource and support the strategy for execution.

Skills required

The fellow for this project will need to be an outstanding technical product leader and facilitator. FEMA is seeking candidates who possess the following qualities:

  • Well-organized, and able to clearly communicate complex ideas, concepts, and systems to a wide range of audiences.
  • Technical background in data science and architecture with prior experience designing, developing, and working with platforms and tools for data visualization, analysis, and management; predictive modeling; and machine learning.
  • Experience with geo-spatial intelligence and mapping is beneficial but not required.
  • Strong background in qualitative and quantitative analytics, the ability to quickly understand, internalize, and manage a wide range of data sets, modeling tools, analytical methodologies, and indices.
  • A passion and desire for making a real impact on how effectively FEMA helps people before, during, and after disasters is a must.

Presidential Innovation Fellows working with FEMA Region 9 will be based in Oakland, CA.