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No FEMA Response

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A cousin trope to No OSHA Compliance.

In the real world, when some horrible disaster happens, humanitarian aid generally pours in to the area. In the United States, these efforts are (in theory) coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or "FEMA" for short, hence the trope name. It may not be effective for whatever reason, but people try to help.

Not so in fiction, where earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and stranger events are avoided or outright cordoned off by the outside world and the survivors are left to fend for themselves. This seems especially prevalent in Japanese fiction, as it appears that nation has zero confidence in the stability of the social order -- the slightest accident on the street will inevitably lead to people cracking each others' skulls open to feast on the goo within. This goes double if it's a Go Nagai production.

This covers isolated disasters ignored by the outside world, not conditions where the entire fabric of civilization has been destroyed by global-scale events. A Lampshade Hanging of this trope as the first clue that a disaster extends beyond the purely local scale is such a common narrative device that it's very nearly a sub-trope.

Note that this can sadly be very much Truth in Television, mostly in isolated areas where civilization is less organized, and the world doesn't like paying much attention (similar to an ignored civil war in Africa).

Examples of No FEMA Response include:


Anime and Manga Edit

  • Somewhat justified in Akira (manga version), as by the time major humanitarian aid efforts are on their way to Neo-Tokyo, Tetsuo and his followers have already organized the survivors into a militantly isolationist nut cult who attack the relief workers.
  • In S-Cry-ed, the Lost Ground has been placed under the jurisdiction of HOLY, which doesn't seem to care about civilizing the area in any way other than getting Alter Users under their control.
  • The combination of an earthquake and a surge in demonic activity causes a large chunk of Tokyo to become a lawless danger zone in Demon City Shinjuku.
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is an Aversion. The anime is about how to deal with a post-earthquake condition.
  • Averted in Uzumaki, where relief is quick to come in once news about the weird shit going on in town reaches the outside world. The problem comes when whirlpools form in the harbor and sink all the ships, and any attempts to get into or out of town run headlong into the roads following entirely different paths.

Comic Books Edit

  • ~Batman: No Man's Land~: After two outbreaks of a horrific genetically engineered plague virus are followed by a devastating earthquake that basically smashes Gotham City flat, the government (influenced by covert supervillain activity) decides that any further aid and reconstruction would just be throwing good money after bad and orders the city evacuated and left to rot. Anyone refusing to leave is no longer their problem. Gotham is left to the mercies of the Arkham inmates, criminal organizations, and street gangs for over a year.
    • Note that the government actually declared Gotham to no longer be part of the American territory (something that's not possible under the US Constitution) and literally shot down any attempts to bring relief aid to the people who insisted on staying!
      • And Metropolis, a city that had similarly been extensively damaged by Lex Luthor shortly before, was fixed magically (by GOTHAM NATIVE Zatanna the Magician) but nothing was done to restore Gotham (until, ironically, Luthor paid for the repairs to get the publicity that got him elected President.)

Film Edit

  • Resident Evil Apocalypse. Raccoon City is sealed off and the inhabitants left to die to prevent the T-Virus from escaping.
  • Outbreak: The city was quarantined, and they the plan was to Fuel Air Bomb it to stop the infection from spreading.
  • The Crazies: The Remake has the first city cordoned off and Fuel Air Bombed. Worse, they made everybody think they were evac'ing, when they really were just herding them into trucks to burn them alive. Survivors made it to another city which was then targeted for the same treatment.
  • In the remake of Dawn of the Dead, there was an effort by the US Government to stop the zombie apocalypse, from mass quarantines to military safe zones. But in barely a few days, it becomes clear to the protagonists that all of it failed.
  • In the 2008 version of Day of the Dead the Army cordons off the town, and all phone and Cell Phone service is cut off.
  • 28 Days Later: While society has pretty much entirely collapsed in Great Britain, the outbreak had not spread outside of the British Isles due to the very short period between infection and full on Rage. Granted, it has only been less than a month, and other governments may have still been trying to figure out how to help, assuming that their first aid missions weren't overrun or driven out by the spreading outbreak.
    • 28 Weeks Later reveals that there were a large number of refugee camps in Europe, so at the very least Britain's nearest neighbours were probably pulling uninfected civilians out of the ports or off the beaches.
  • Super 8: An alien has gotten loose in a town. Rather than try for a covert operation or even "try" to save any of the several people who have already been kidnapped by it, the government evacuates the town and initiates " Walking Distance ", a.k.a., "burning the town to the ground". They don't check if everyone is out, or even try to stop people coming back in.

Tabletop RPG Edit

  • Shadowrun supplement Bug City. After insect spirits are discovered infesting Chicago and possessing its citizens, most of the city is sealed off to prevent them from escaping.

Video Games Edit

  • Devil Survivor features the Yamanote Circle, a vast swathe of Tokyo's shopping district, cordoned off by military forces ordered to kill anyone trying to escape the blackout zone. Partly justified by the government's advance knowledge of events that are soon to take place and their attempts to keep the released demon-summoning technology from spreading to the rest of the world, and then FULLY jusitfied when it's revealed that the angels were the ones who told them to lock down the circle, and have them under threat of heavenly retribution if they refuse.
  • After the opening destruction in the video game In Famous the government occasionally drops food and medical supplies, but no personnel enter the area, and there are groups of soldiers with authorization to use deadly force on anyone attempting to leave the city. Partially justified in that some unknown and deadly plague has infected a goodly amount of the citizenry.
  • In Left 4 Dead and its sequel, CEDA tried to respond to the "Green Flu", but got overwhelmed. Inevitably, every time the Survivors try to get to a CEDA evacuation point, it'll be destroyed with nothing but corpses to show for it, and will end up having to escape another way.
  • There is a FEMA in Deus Ex series... it just doesn't do what people expect them to do. Mainly, they maintain the fictional equivalent of CIA black sites.
  • The original premise of I Am Alive was that massive earthquake in Chicago coincides with mass water shortages worldwide, so no early rescue teams arrived at the city.
    • Subverted in the finished game with the Event, a cataclysmic series of disasters so widespread and destructive that it not only hindered relief efforts but also effectively destroyed almost all semblance of civilized order within a year after it began. This in turn left the survivors to fend for themselves...against other survivors.

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