FEMA PODs: What They Are and Why They Matter

by Tommy Grant

This is an updated article on FEMA PODs. Our first article was several years ago (pre-COVID), and we will continue to update this article when any information changes or develops related to Points of Distribution.

FEMA is the acronym for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an agency that responds to and mitigates disasters. PODs stand for Points of Distribution. PODs are planned methods to distribute emergency supplies. They would be needed if infrastructure broke down where food, water, and other supplies could not be distributed through normal means.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

What is a FEMA POD?

The Army Corp of Engineers and FEMA have teamed up to develop general plans for resource dispersal using local agencies in the event of a national disaster. The POD is the designated location and the process where they distribute the resources.

They are designed in three sizes to accommodate different traffic, the largest of which is no more than 20,000 people a day.

What Resources Would a FEMA POD Distribute?

Besides regular disaster supplies such as food, water, and blankets, a FEMA POD could also be called upon to distribute the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS is a huge stockpile of medical supplies maintained by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medical supplies include vaccines, antibiotics, antidotes, and antitoxins for rapid deployment to PODs.

The SNS would be used in response to a biological weapon, epidemic, or pandemic. The supplies from the SNS would be signed out by individuals to prevent waste. Disaster supplies like food and water would usually be distributed where each person or vehicle gets enough for a family of three. Many times, these are provided as MREs and ice.

Here is a video going into more depth:

Where are the PODs Located?

Locations are not concrete but depend on local officials to pick the location to ensure that it is a safe and accessible area. Many of these locations have been pre-planned locally as part of their ERP (Emergency Response Plan).

Barring having contact with FEMA, there is not a surefire way to predict where the POD will be set up in your local area. Public schools make good POD location areas due to how their locations are dispersed in the population. Hospitals are usually not selected as POD locations because it would cause traffic problems.

If PODs are needed, hospitals would most likely be at capacity due to the disaster event. The location selected will be based on the type of disaster in the local area and accessibility for both survivors and resupply trucks.

How Would I Get Resources From a FEMA POD?

The point of dispersal would most likely run supplies from 7 am to 7 pm, and then restock after that shift is over. Security will be present to usher crowds and keep everyone calm. If you are visiting a FEMA POD to get vaccines, it is a good idea to wear personal protection. An N95 mask and nitrile gloves should be your bare minimum if you have to wait in an area with possibly infected people for long periods.

The plans for setting up a POD are fairly optimistic since they are hoping that vehicles will be used to pick up supplies and rotate people through the area faster. If vehicles are not able to be used then the resources will not be able to be distributed very fast and wait times will increase quickly.

What’s Important About FEMA PODs?

In an event where you need disaster supplies, you are going to need to know how to obtain them through your local POD. While you may have disaster supplies covered if you are a seasoned prepper, activation of the Strategic National Stockpile could change this. The vaccines and treatments in the SNS would be needed by the entire population.

A FEMA POD could hold the key to survival through its distribution of these vaccines in the event of a pandemic. Reaching a POD without infection and limiting your exposure while obtaining the vaccines could be the most important part of your disaster response. Be aware of the potential for crowd-based disasters, since groups of panicked people are not the most predictable.

Where to Learn More

If you want to learn more, you can learn straight from the source on the FEMA website. Here are the resources they provide to teach local and federal emergency managers:

You could even go so far as to get a certificate by taking a test, but there are better uses of your time if you aren’t a local emergency manager or part of FEMA.

The Final Word

Thanks for taking the time today to learn more about FEMA PODs’ role in the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Even when you plan to be self-sufficient, like many preppers, it helps to know the plans in place and how government agencies will react to different situations. If you found this article helpful, you may also enjoy:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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