FEMA loses 7 years' worth of major official reports

Database contained post-disaster reports on Katrina, floods, fires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's official post-disaster reports on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and other major events have been permanently deleted from the agency's database because of a server failure, according to a new federal audit.

FEMA lost seven years' worth of post-disaster official reports when a computer server failed in May 2010, and the agency hasn't been able to access the data since then, states the Feb. 8 report from the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General. FEMA is an agency of DHS.

FEMA started creating the after-action reports in 2003 under the Remedial Action Management Program to cull lessons learned and pass on best practices to its staff. The official reports in the database included those on the Hurricane Katrina in 2005, California wildfires in 2007 and major floods in 2008, the DHS IG said.

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The reports disappeared due to a server failure in May 2010, and although the data was recovered in November 2010, the software needed to read it has not been restored and the reports are currently inaccessible, states the report dated Feb. 8. An archiving plan for the reports was in the works. but hadn't been implemented, the report added.

“Therefore, historical data on lessons learned and best practices are not available to all FEMA personnel,” wrote Matt Jadacki, DHS' assistant IG.

The report also found that FEMA did not distribute the reports broadly enough to all response and recovery personnel and senior leaders.

The IG made six recommendations that included urging FEMA to conduct after-action reviews for all disasters, appoint after-action review facilitators, disseminate the reports more widely, and develop an archiving plan so that data loss does not happen again.

FEMA officials agreed with the recommendations and said steps were being taken, or already had been taken, to implement them.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 Tom Newell MI

They should have implemented E Team as a means on Tracking and cataloging disaster information. That system, such as MI has, archives data automatically.

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 mike moxcey

Backups are for wimps. I always say that as a joke but FEMA apparently hasn't figured that out. Pathetic. Your tax dollars inaction.

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 Maria M

Heading IS misleading. Data hasn't been destroyed but inaccessible data is still useless data. Six months to recover data seems a bit long to me and three months to restore the software to read it...yikes! Unacceptable!! Isn't this supposed to be the new and improved FEMA? Appears to be the same 'ole FEMA.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 RiPo DC

They are the ones who are supposed to save our @$$ in a disaster, yet cannot recover themselves from a simple data loss! Another group of federal employees that are incompetent and should be fired to reduce the deficit.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011

Ummm.... The data have _allegedly_ been restored. We might wait until someone can actually read the data before declaring success.

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