I would have preferred to wait to introduce this topic until sometime after a substantial portion of the relief effort was accomplished. I, as many
others on this board, have been quite vocal on the unacceptable government response since nearly Monday. After seeing Bill O’Reilly on FOX today
blaming the governor of Louisiana, with the obvious implication that the federal government was somehow clean in this matter, I nearly lost it.
In Bill O’Reilly’s world view, Governor Blanco is primarily responsible because according to him, and his ridiculous “military” analyst, Col
David Hunt, she failed to “call Washington” and let them know that she needed help!
When O’Reilly said the following, I nearly vomited:
“So let’s recap…I want to be fair…I want to methodical…I want to be precise…The mistake that was made, that I see, was
that the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, was not proactive in getting enough people close to her largest city so that if the worse case
happened they were there and could go in fast. Right or wrong?”
“Yeah, that’s correct.”
This absurd exchange continues with the assertion that federal resources could not have been deployed without her express consent.
While I am certain many are ultimately to blame for the colossal and grotesque display of incompetence demonstrated by the relief effort, perhaps
including Governor Blanco, I can’t stomach the notion that so many are prepared to give the federal government a pass on their inaction on this
Before I proceed, I’d like to explain my intentions here. I feel we have an obligation to those who needlessly died, and perhaps will still die, as
a result of our government’s failure to do what was necessary before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.
I am not attempting a political discussion or an ideological debate. I am merely seeking accountability for those who failed to do their job. What has
transpired this past week is not only a national catastrophe, but a national disgrace!
I am disgusted by the images I see and the stories I hear. We owe it to those who have suffered and are still suffering and to all Americans to ensure
nothing like this can ever happen again.
Admittedly, I am no expert in the protocols that should have been applied during this disaster. Moreover, I am not certain whether any ideas I have
(or those of others) would have fared much better in these circumstances. But what I do know is that since 911, we have committed substantial
resources and planning to theoretically respond to calamities of this size. We have been led to believe that America is safer because of it. Yet, this
week and this storm have taught us, and the world, otherwise. How can that be?
I would welcome anyone’s help on this endeavor. In my view, it begins with an analysis of what we believed to have been place in terms of a plan for
just such a disaster of this size and nature.
I suppose one could start such an analysis in any number of places. I for obvious reasons chose to start with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
(FEMA). Accordingly, this is what I have found so far, and I have to say, I am shocked by what I am finding...
The Federal Emergency Management Agency - a former independent agency that became part of the new Department of Homeland Security in March 2003 - is
tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disasters. FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of
1803. This act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire.
In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural
In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Joe M. Allbaugh as the director of FEMA. Within months, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th focused the
agency on issues of national preparedness and homeland security, and tested the agency in unprecedented ways. The agency coordinated its activities
with the newly formed Office of Homeland Security, and FEMA's Office of National Preparedness was given responsibility for helping to ensure that the
nation's first responders were trained and equipped to deal with weapons of mass destruction.
Billions of dollars of new funding were directed to FEMA to help communities face the threat of terrorism. Just a few years past its 20th anniversary,
FEMA was actively directing its "all-hazards" approach to disasters toward homeland security issues. In March 2003, FEMA joined 22 other federal
agencies, programs and offices in becoming the Department of Homeland Security. The new department, headed by Secretary Tom Ridge, brought a
coordinated approach to national security from emergencies and disasters - both natural and man-made. Today, FEMA is one of four major branches of
DHS. About 2,500 full-time employees in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate are supplemented by more than 5,000 stand-by disaster
As it has for more than 20 years, FEMA's mission remains: to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a
vision of "A Nation Prepared." At no time in its history has this vision been more important to the country than in the aftermath of Sept.
OK, so now I know what they believe their responsibility is.
Michael D. Brown
is the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and
Suspect Number 1:
Michael D. Brown
As the head of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Under Secretary Brown leads federal disaster response and recovery
operations and coordinates disaster activities with more than two dozen federal agencies and departments and the American Red Cross…
Additionally, Under Secretary Brown helps the Secretary of Homeland Security ensure the effectiveness of emergency responders, and directs the
National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center, the National Disaster Medical System and the Nuclear Incident Response Team.
In no particular order, I chose a few links at FEMA’s website
, and learned of the National Urban Search and Rescue
Response System, (US&R).
The National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System, established under the authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1989
is a framework for structuring local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces.
These task forces, complete with necessary tools and equipment, and required skills and techniques, can be deployed by FEMA for the rescue of victims
of structural collapse. Learn more about this national capability by using the buttons on the sidebar.
OK, what has FEMA said they have done with regard to Katrina and how soon?
I found this….
Life Safety Tops FEMA Priorities, Supplies Pour In, August 31, 2001
Look at the Federal Response Activities
section. So much of this seems disputable…..I’ll need to look at these more closely later….
Regardless, I really did not find anything that suggested FEMA has a grand comprehensive plan to address a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina.
In fact, I found the following on their FAQ section for Response & Recovery
Where can I get food and water?
The American Red Cross and other volunteer agencies will provide you with food, water and clothing. Listen to your radio or watch local media for the
location of the nearest volunteer agency facility.
What??? This doesn’t sound like a plan at all. I’ll also look later at the Red Cross’ response to determine what happened.
Moving to the Department of Homeland Security
, I found what I was looking for in the
Emergencies & Disasters
section, under Planning and
" target="_blank" class="postlink"> National Response Plan
This is a 486 page document! My initial review reveals the following:
The purpose of the NRP is to establish a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to domestic incident management across a spectrum of activities
including prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery…
It is designed to provide a proactive and integrated Federal response to catastrophic events;
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 established DHS to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; reduce the vulnerability of the United
States to…natural disasters, and other emergencies; and minimize the damage and assist in the recovery from…natural disasters, and other
emergencies. The act also designates DHS as “a focal point regarding natural and manmade crises and emergency planning.”
Suspect Number 2:
Pursuant to HSPD-5, the Secretary of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating Federal operations within the United States to prepare for,
respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. HSPD-5 further designates the Secretary of Homeland Security
as the “principal Federal official” for domestic incident management.
The NPR further states:
Suspect Number 3:
President George W. Bush
In this role, the Secretary is also responsible for coordinating Federal resources utilized in response to or recovery from…major disasters, or
other emergencies if and when any of the following four conditions applies:
(1) a Federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested DHS assistance;
(2) the resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed and Federal assistance has been requested;
(3) more than one Federal department or agency has become substantially involved in responding to the incident; or
(4) the Secretary has been directed to assume incident management responsibilities by the President.
The NPR continues:
Suspect Number 4:
The Department of Defense has significant resources that may be available to support the Federal response to an Incident of National
The Secretary of Defense authorizes Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) for domestic incidents as directed by the President or when
consistent with military readiness operations and appropriate under the circumstances and the law. The Secretary of Defense retains command of
military forces under DSCA, as with all other situations and operations.
The NPR continues:
During an Incident of National Significance, other Federal departments or agencies may play primary, coordinating, and/or support roles based on their
authorities and resources and the nature of the incident…
Several Federal agencies have independent authorities to declare disasters or emergencies. These authorities may be exercised concurrently with or
become part of a
major disaster or emergency declared under the Stafford Act.
There is obviously much more to review and explore. I will pick up more as time permits…
[edit on 3-9-2005 by loam]