FEMA's Origins Closely Tied To Nuclear Attack Disasters

Published: Monday, September 11, 2017 - 2:53pm
Updated: Monday, September 11, 2017 - 3:01pm

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is the one we think about in the midst of natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

But it started out as something entirely different when President Harry Truman established its predecessor, the Federal Civil Defense Administration. It didn’t actually take the name FEMA until the 1970s.

And FEMA’s origins are related to disasters, but not the natural ones. It actually is closely tied to what the U.S. would need to do in case of a nuclear attack and how to protect members of a presidential Cabinet.

Garrett M. Graff looked into FEMA’s lesser-known priorities for his new book "Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Plan to Save Itself — While the Rest of Us Die." We spoke with Graff about it.

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