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The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities, including FEMA employees, possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.

“EMI: Train, Exercise, Educate”

FEMA History

For over 45 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of "A Nation Prepared."

On April 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the Executive Order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). From day one, FEMA has remained committed to protecting and serving the American people. That commitment to the people we serve and the belief in our survivor-centric mission will never change.

FEMA has more than 14,000 employees across the country – at headquarters, the ten regional offices, the National Emergency Training Center, the Center for Domestic Preparedness/Noble Training Center, and other locations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. This Act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire.

In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters.

By the 1930s, when the Federal approach to disaster-related events became popular, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was given authority to make disaster loans for repair and reconstruction of certain public facilities following an earthquake, and later, other types of disasters.

In 1934, the Bureau of Public Roads was given authority to provide funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters.

The Flood Control Act of 1965, which gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater authority to implement flood control projects, was passed.

This piecemeal approach to disaster assistance was problematic. Accordingly, it prompted legislation to require greater cooperation between federal agencies and authorized the President to coordinate these activities.

The 1960s and early 1970s brought massive disasters requiring major federal response and recovery operations by the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, established within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

These events served to focus attention on the issue of natural disasters and brought about increased legislation.

In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Act created the Federal Insurance Administration and made flood insurance available for the first time to homeowners.

The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 made the purchase of flood insurance mandatory for the protection of property located in Special Flood Hazard Areas.

In the year following, President Nixon passed into law the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, firmly establishing the process of Presidential disaster declarations.

However, emergency and disaster activities were still fragmented. When hazards associated with nuclear power plants and the transportation of hazardous substances were added to natural disasters, more than 100 federal agencies were involved in some aspect of disasters, hazards, and emergencies.

Many parallel programs and policies existed at the state and local levels, simplifying the complexity of federal disaster relief efforts.

The National Governor’s Association sought to decrease the many agencies with which state and local governments were forced to work. They asked President Carter to centralize federal emergency functions.

Statutory Authority

Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law 100-707, was signed into law November 23, 1988; it amended the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, Public Law 93-288. It created the system in place today by which a presidential disaster declaration of an emergency triggers financial and physical assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Act gives FEMA the responsibility for coordinating government-wide relief efforts.

It is designed to bring an orderly and systemic means of federal disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens.

Congress’ intention was to encourage states and localities to develop comprehensive disaster preparedness plans, prepare for better intergovernmental coordination in the face of a disaster, encourage the use of insurance coverage, and provide federal assistance programs for losses due to a disaster.

This Act constitutes the statutory authority for most federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs.

Executive Order 12127

President Carter’s 1979 Executive Order merged many of the separate disaster-related responsibilities into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Among other agencies, FEMA absorbed:

  • The Federal Insurance Administration
  • The National Fire Prevention and Control Administration
  • The National Weather Service Community Preparedness Program
  • The Federal Preparedness Agency of the General Services Administration
  • The Federal Disaster Assistance Administration activities from HUD

Civil defense responsibilities were also transferred to the new agency from the Defense Department’s Defense Civil Preparedness Agency.

A New Mission: Homeland Security

On March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Download the FEMA Brochure: PDF 448KB, TXT 14KB

The agency coordinated its activities with the newly formed Office of Homeland Security, and FEMA’s Office of National Preparedness was given responsibility for helping to ensure that the nation’s first responders were trained and equipped to deal with weapons of mass destruction.

Within months, the terrorist attacks of September 11th focused the agency on issues of national preparedness and homeland security, and tested the Agency in unprecedented ways.

Billions of dollars of new funding were directed to FEMA to help communities face the threat of terrorism. Just a few years past its 20th anniversary, FEMA was actively directing its “all-hazards” approach to disasters toward homeland security issues.

In March 2003, FEMA joined 22 other federal agencies, programs, and offices in becoming the Department of Homeland Security.

The new department, headed by Secretary Tom Ridge, brought a coordinated approach to national security from emergencies and disasters—both natural and man-made.

On October 4, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act. The Act significantly reorganized FEMA, provided it substantial new authority to remedy gaps that became apparent in the response to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, and included a more robust preparedness mission for FEMA.

EMI History

The Emergency Management Institute started as the Civil Defense Staff College (CDSC) in Olney, Maryland, on April 1, 1951, and taught civil defense courses in program administration and finance, radiation monitoring and control, and heavy rescue. Due to concerns during the Cold War, the CDSC’s parent organization, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), under Administrator Val Peterson, saw the Presidential Order to move the FCDA and the CDSC to Battle Creek, Michigan, to remove them from the increasing Cold War threat of Washington, DC, being attacked.

CDSC continued teaching courses in program administration and finance, civil defense operations, and radiological monitoring among others, to state and local personnel, but by 1979, some new courses had been created on natural disaster operations. By this point in time, the FCDA came under the Department of Defense and was re-titled the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (DCPA).

In 1979, then President Jimmy Carter brought together a number of Federal agencies that had involvement in disasters, including DCPA, and created a new, amalgamated organization, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Also in 1979, President Carter dedicated the former St. Joseph’s College, which closed with its merger of participants and faculty with Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as the FEMA National Emergency Training Center (NETC). NETC then became the home for the National Fire Academy (NFA) and the re-named Staff College, which became the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), to reflect its now broader training role. The move from Battle Creek, Michigan, to Emmitsburg was done in the fall of 1980, and the first EMI class was conducted in January 1981.

EMI and NFA are managed independently with unique participant audiences and curricula for the emergency management and national fire communities. EMI and NFA have collaborated on curricula and programs since their inception, and share in the operations costs of NETC.

In 2016, EMI celebrated its 65th anniversary and legacy of emergency management training and education for the nation.

Present Day

Today EMI is accomplishing its mission of improving the competencies of U.S. officials at all levels of government to prevent, prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the potential effects of disasters and emergencies. EMI promotes integrated emergency management principles and practices through application of the National Response Framework (NRF), National Incident Management System (NIMS), and an all-hazards approach. EMI is the lead national emergency management training, exercising, and education institution.

EMI offers a full-spectrum emergency management curriculum with more than 600 active courses available to the integrated emergency management community, which includes: FEMA staff and disaster employees; Federal partners; state, local, and tribal emergency managers; volunteer organizations; and first responders from across the nation. EMI supports international emergency management with more than 50 countries participating in EMI’s training and educational activities through the years, both in residence and through internationally deployed training teams.

EMI also enjoys close relations with several nationally recognized professional emergency management and related organizations and has interfaced with them through training, symposiums, and exercises. Some of these significant organizations include the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), American Public Works Association (APWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM). EMI is fully accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and the American Council on Education (ACE).

EMI delivers more than 1,500 resident course offerings, training more than 30,000 individual participants annually. The EMI Independent Study (IS) Program, a web-based distance learning program open to the public, delivers extensive online training of more than 200 courses and trains close to 1.9 million individuals annually. EMI has provided technical support to dozens of other Federal government agencies and state offices on advanced distance learning technology development and application. The IS Program also hosts training for related Federal agencies.

A vital asset to FEMA’s disaster operations is the Disaster Field Training Operations (DFTO) implemented by EMI. The DFTO deploys to open Joint Field Offices throughout the United States, supporting open declarations and training more than 10,000 employees annually.

EMI conducts three national-level symposiums. The Institute hosts the National Preparedness Directorate Annual National Preparedness Symposium, which is attended by Regional Training Managers, State Training Officers and Exercise Training Officers, State Administrative Authority Officials, and subject matter experts from a broad sector of the preparedness community. The Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium is held in June for more than 400 college and university officials with current or developing programs in emergency management and hosts more than 75 discussion panels throughout the Symposium. The National Dam Safety Program Technical Seminar, held in February, is attended by dam safety officials, hydrologists, engineers, and reclamation officials.

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