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NIST, FEMA Strengthen Disaster Response and Research Capabilities

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced the signing of an agreement that designates NIST to serve as a research and technical resource for FEMA. The agreement, which is intended to strengthen the collaborative bonds between the two agencies, also will serve to support the federal government's capabilities to reduce national disaster losses and enhance homeland security.

In a joint statement, NIST Director Arden Bement Jr. and FEMA's Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) Director Robert Shea said, "Both agencies recognize that our missions in fire, natural disaster prevention and man-made disaster events are highly complementary; and that based on our history of successful collaborations following disasters, it is in the public interest to continue to draw on this relationship."

Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU), NIST—through its Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL)—and FEMA—through FIMA—will work jointly to:

  • Reduce loss of life and property and protect the nation's buildings and infrastructure from all types of hazards;
  • Aid the development of technology and methods to evaluate equipment for use by the nation's emergency first responders and management communities; and
  • Ensure that FEMA can call on NIST quickly for assistance with scientific and technological services in disaster investigations, recovery planning and support technologies.

The MOU states that NIST and FEMA agree:

  • To develop and implement a coordinated annual process to plan, prioritize, select, and fund projects of mutual interest in fire, disaster prevention and homeland security—as well as projects to evaluate equipment for fire, rescue, civil defense services and other first responders;
  • To establish a protocol for a quick deployment mechanism that may be activated when both the administrator of FIMA and the director of NIST determine a need for a NIST response to extreme events (this would not preclude either NIST or FEMA from responding to extreme events independently under their respective authorities);
  • That projects may involve cooperation with and/or participation of other agencies, industries and university experts; and
  • That the administrator of FIMA and the director of NIST, or their designees, will meet on a semi-annual basis to review progress and provide general policy direction in implementing this agreement.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurements, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an independent agency of the federal government, reporting to the president. Since its founding in 1979, FEMA's mission has been clear: to reduce loss of life and property and protect our nation's critical infrastructure from all types of hazards through a comprehensive, risk-based, emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Additional Contact: Cindy Ramsay (FEMA), (202) 646-4117, cynthia.ramsay [at] (cynthia[dot]ramsay[at]fema[dot]gov)

Released March 29, 2002, Updated January 12, 2023