The following provides information on FEMA and federal disaster assistance.

FEMA is a former independent agency.

March 2003: FEMA became part of the new Department of Homeland Security.

FEMA is tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters.

FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803.

Congressional Act of 1803 provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire.

1900's: Ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.

1930s: The Reconstruction Finance Corp. was given authority to make disaster loans.

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

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

The Federal Disaster Assistance Administration was established within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.

1968: The National Flood Insurance Act offered new flood protection to homeowners.

1974: The Disaster Relief Act established the process of Presidential disaster declarations.

The National Governor's Association asked President Jimmy Carter to centralize federal emergency functions.

President Carter's 1979 executive order merged many of the separate disaster-related responsibilities into a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Early disasters and emergencies included the contamination of Love Canal, the Cuban refugee crisis and the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

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

FEMA is one of four major branches of DHS.

About 2,500 full-time employees in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate are supplemented by more than 5,000 stand-by disaster reservists.

Source: FEMA