(RNN) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was enacted in 1979 under an executive order signed by President Jimmy Carter and has since served to help Americans prepare, manage and recover from both natural and man-made disasters.
After disasters, people often deal with loss of income, loss of life, and loss of homes, and FEMA will be there to aid.
FEMA is arguably most commonly utilized throughout hurricane season which runs annually from June 1 through Nov. 30.
FEMA is operated through 10 regional offices and has about 2,600 full time employees nationwide. There are also another 4,000 employees who are reserved for disasters.
Although FEMA has been tapped as a governmental role in helping all Americans during disastrous times, the agency's effort has not been without criticism.
FEMA and controversy:
Most recently the agency was condemned over its response to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, which received catastrophic damage from Hurricane Maria.
The storm impacted the island on Sept. 20, 2017 as a Category 4 Hurricane.
Hurricane Maria is responsible for the second deadliest hurricane reported in U.S. history with an official death toll of 2,975.
Initial death reports only accounted for 64 people.
It wasn't until the conclusion of a new study in Aug. 2018 that the official death toll was revealed.
The island was devastated and without power for several months and left with a reported $100 billion in damages.
Here's how FEMA works:
Directly after disaster strikes, FEMA also works with other government agencies that provide relief in the areas of transportation, communications, medical care, search and rescue, hazardous materials and more.
This coordination of government wide relief efforts is called the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act which was signed into law in 1988.
Here are ways FEMA helps once basic and immediate needs are taken care of directly after a disaster.
Medical: The agency will help with medical treatment and medical expenses and costs associated with loss of life.
Property: The agency will aid in transporting, storing and/or replacing private property and it will help with rebuilding efforts and moving expenses.
Housing: The agency can assist with temporary housing arrangements, provide resources for grant money to help with uninsured homes that were destroyed and help cover damages not covered by insurance.
To apply for aid Americans should call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). They should also live in areas that are FEMA eligible.