The Washington Monthly
Wow… I was all set to learn something useful about FEMA and their response to the crisis in New Orleans, and elsewhere.
Then I read the opening line for January 2001 that includes “a crony from Texas.”
Yup, THIS is going to be one VERY objective piece. Not.
Seriously–people are critical of FEMA, and argue that it has not responded quickly enough to the crisis in New Orleans. (by the way, I have not heard this criticism about their response to the HARDEST hit areas around Biloxi.)
My question for everyone critical of FEMA is simply: When was the last time those critical have had to plan and execute a contingency operation of this scale? An operation where most airfields are unsuitable for use, most roadways remain blocked or are “gone” as is the case with many bridges, and people trying to conduct relief operations are having shots fired at them?
Now, imagine trying to plan a major contingency before a crisis like this, and trying to figure out exactly what roads will, and will not, be available? Imagine not knowing which buildings will be available for occupancy, and which will not. Then imagine surrounding the city that everyone seems to fixate upon with two other states (minimum) in the same dire need, and imagine the gall that would be required to drive past all the needs of those people to satisfy the needs of those in “the Big Easy.”
This is an operation on a grand scale, and for those that haven’t done it, perhaps it looks “easy.” It is not–but I encourage them to try.
After seeing the comments from many (most noteably on http://tulanestudentinfo.blogspot.com/, in their criticism of FEMA) I am surprised anyone would want to be part of FEMA. Then again, I know many that are, and I solidly stand behind them, and their brilliant, and herculean efforts.
As a firefighter, I know firsthand the importance of pre-plannig for emergencies.
From what I have heard, FEMA dropped the ball big time in planning for disasters on the Gulf Coast. It seems that the military saw it coming and was making preparations, but that they had to await civilian FEMA’s lead.
I am also distressed to learn of the lack of Emergency Management experience in Michael Brown, head of FEMA. President Clinton’s head of FEMA, James Witt, was the former Arkansas head of Emergency Management. Surely President Bush could have found a Republican with similar professional Emergency Management experience, rather than some lawyer!
An emergency is no place for on the job training!