FEMA Law and Legal Definition

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. It was created by Presidential Order on 1 April 1979. The primary purpose of FEMA is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. FEMA also provides these services for territories of the United States, such as Puerto Rico. The only exception is when an emergency or disaster occurs on federal property or to a federal asset, for example, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, or the Space Shuttle Columbia in the 2003 return-flight disaster.