Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva swapped ideas and discussed best practices in reacting to disasters at home and abroad with leading practitioners in the US administration. Over two days, she visited three emergency response centres in Washington and New York. Before that, the Commissioner met with W. Craig Fugate, Administrator of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to talk about the common challenge of protecting citizens from the growing number, intensity and complexity of disasters.
On Administrator Fugate's invitation, Commissioner Georgieva visited FEMA's National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) in Washington. There she discussed with FEMA officials the response coordination between local and regional, state and federal, national and international authorities. Other priorities high on the agenda both in Europe and in the US were also mentioned: the preparation of disaster scenarios, connectivity between response assets, and opportunities for flexible cooperation between those that respond. The Commissioner explained the steps the European Union is taking to upgrade its disaster response. She also outlined the ongoing evolution of the European Monitoring and Information Centre towards a fully operational disaster response capability.
Commissioner Georgieva was interested to see not only how the United States has organised emergency response at home, but also how it helps with crises abroad. From Haiti to Japan, US and European experts often work shoulder to shoulder to assist survivors in the hardest days after a disaster. So, while in Washington, the Commissioner also paid a visit to the Operations Center of USAID. There she saw the Libya crisis room and discussed the ongoing humanitarian operation in the region with US experts, who spoke with much appreciation of the regular cooperation with their counterparts from the Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).
Finally, Commissioner Georgieva had a useful and interesting tour of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Its former premises had been destroyed in the attacks on the World Trade Center; since then, a new state-of-the-art facility has been built. The Commissioner was hosted by OEM's Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno and members of the executive staff. With them, she spoke about the importance of preparedness, sound planning and educating the public. The visits allowed Commissioner Georgieva to compare notes on crisis response and civil protection with US counterparts, and to exchange a wealth of ideas that could be useful in the ongoing work to improve Europe's capacity to deal with the growing challenge of disasters.