Saturday, September 03, 2005

A failure of command 
Shamelessly plagiarized from the comments on Donald Sensing's blog:

Sorry Joel & ROE, but you guys are WAAAYYY off base in criticizing FEMA. Disaster preparedness is the responsibility of State and Local authorities – in this case LEMA (The Louisiana Emergency Management Agency). There is a state-wide director for disaster relief in every state – that person is called the Governor. There is a local director for disaster relief in every municipality – that person is called the Mayor. FEMA is a coordinating body that assists State and Local authorities in getting the resources they need. Because they are the “go to” people most folks are under the impression that they are in charge, and in fact if the State and Local authorities abdicate control over a disaster area they will take over. Typically after the initial response to a disaster the local guys do just that, leave FEMA in control. That’s because they have the experience and personnel to manage disasters of this scale.

Disclosure: I’m a volunteer coordinator for MEMA (The Missouri Emergency Management Agency), I’ve been through three major floods and a few big storms that generated enough tornado damage to get the affected counties disaster relief – believe me when I tell you what we are seeing from FEMA now is lightyears ahead of what I’ve seen from them in the past. Typically it took two to three days just to get the disaster declaration, then another two to three to get FEMA deployed – of course by then the local guys had been on the ground working around the clock for five or six days and we were more than happy to dump everything in FEMA’s lap. That’s the way the system is designed. Bush saw that and tried to skip a few steps to speed things up, he pre-declared the areas disaster areas. So what we are seeing in NO is the result of a convergence of factors:

First, the storm damage was bad, but the flooding has made relief efforts ten times harder than anything they could have imagined. Second, Mayor Nagin’s performance has been pathetic. This is the worst case of poor planning and criminal incompetence I’ve ever seen. Like I said, Bush declared the gulf coast area a Federal Disaster area on Saturday – two days before Katrina hit. That freed up FEMA resources for local and state coordinators and allowed for the pre-positioning of supplies so they could be rapidly deployed to the affected areas. Mayor Nagin waited until the last minute to call for an evacuation of the city, but the poorest people could not evacuate – why weren’t school busses used to get them out of town? Mayor Nagin made the last minute decision to declare the Superdome and COnvention centers as refuge relocation points – why weren’t they stocked with water, food, bedding, generators, and fuel? Why weren’t hospitals offered additional resources by the Mayors office? Mayor Nagin made the decision to allow looting and told the police to focus on Search and Rescue – but looting hinders S&R efforts (as we’ve seen) and no one I know could believe that decision – it’s emergency management 101, preserving order preserves life. There’s plenty of blame to go around – Blanco deserves her share too – but the real culprit in the aftermath here is Nagin.

I agree. Nagin and his emergency director both seem to have abdicated their commands.

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I'll be coming back again.


pictures on Hurricane Katrina
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