FEMA Builds Disaster-Resilient Communities

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March 28, 2017
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March 27, 2017

FEMA Builds Disaster-Resilient Communities

The Building Science Branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an important mission—to reduce loss of life and property by creating disaster-resilient communities across the United States. Building Science Branch experts provide risk reduction guidelines and technical support such as building code updates, lessons-learned studies, proper construction techniques, and disaster recovery advisories to help at-risk communities withstand, mitigate and recover from earthquakes, wind storms, floods, and other disasters. The Building Science Branch strives to minimize loss from disastrous events and guide hazard mitigation efforts across the country by delivering publications, presentations, training courses, building code improvements, and other outreach to states and local communities.

To achieve its goals and improve publication performance, the Building Science Branch realized it needed to better understand the needs of its audiences by getting feedback on customer experience and satisfaction with using its publications. Most private sector companies track customer satisfaction to understand key links between the consumer experience, stronger brand loyalty, and increased sales. For the experts at the Building Science Branch, however, measuring customer satisfaction of their publications had a far greater purpose—they believed it had a direct impact on their ability to build better disaster-resilient communities and ultimately reduce damage and save lives.

By continuously monitoring citizen satisfaction and benchmarking performance against other government agencies and private sector companies, Federal agencies can pinpoint areas for service improvement, make better decisions, and prioritize how funds are spent in a targeted manner. Since 1999, the Federal government has relied on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) as its “gold standard” metric for measuring citizen satisfaction. In 2007, FEMA began working with CFI Group, a founding partner of the ACSI methodology, on a number of agency-related satisfaction studies. Over a five-year span from 2011-2016, the Building Science Branch likewise engaged CFI Group to evaluate customer satisfaction levels for over 200 of its publications and select technical, non-technical, and new publications.

In general, Building Science Branch’s ACSI results trended higher than many other Federal agencies. Still, CFI Group helped drill down a level deeper to understand how to improve its scores even further. For example, the most recent CFI Group’s study found that three aspects of its publications—understandability, usability, and availability of publications—scored relatively lower than other areas and these were therefore highlighted as opportunities for future improvement.

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