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What Black leaders taught me about helping people in a crisis

by The Grio

FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks surveys damage in Selma following tornadoes in January. (Courtesy of FEMA)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

For more than a dozen years, emergency management has taken me across the nation. Since 2021, I’ve had the honor of helping people before, during and after disasters as part of the Biden-Harris administration. Along the way, I’ve been humbled by stories of neighbors stepping up in times of disaster and by the work of faith-based, community and private-sector leaders addressing the issues these events exacerbate.

The threat of climate change makes this work more urgent and necessary.

We see a shift in thinking about the impact climate change has on the nation as natural disasters become more frequent and destructive. In 2022, 18 disasters were responsible for more than $1 billion in losses across the United States, breaking records set only a few years ago.

As is often the case, the impact of this problem hits our communities harder. The EPA’s 2021 Climate Change and Social Vulnerability report found that just 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming — which could happen in two to three decades — would have major implications on African Americans’ health.

Under this scenario, Black people would be 34% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma cases and 40% more likely to live in places with the highest projected increases in extreme temperature-related deaths.

The time for action is now.

My agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), understands that much work needs to be done to take on this challenge. Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks, the first African American to hold this post in FEMA’s history said, “At this moment in history, FEMA has committed to take on the challenges our nation…

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