FEMA unprepared and lacks pre strategic planning
Hurricane Maria is President Trumps Katrina. The President relies on Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for all disasters in the United States, which includes every state and territory.
Hurricane Maria was an extraordinary act of nature that spawned one of the worst human tragedies in America. It was one of the most destructive natural disasters in American history, laying waste to Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is the largest of American territories. It is an Island 100 miles long and 35 miles wide, and an area the size of the United Kingdom, with an American population of 3.5 million people. In the American Virgin Islands, the storm surge obliterated coastal communities and left thousands destitute. Puerto Rico and the islands were overwhelmed by 175 miles per hour winds and waist high flooding in many areas. The storm knocked out all power and communications on the islands.
As a result all told, many American citizens lost their lives, over 3 million people suffered without basic essentials like fresh potable water, food, fuel, and shelter.
FEMA has become so muscle bond and powerful it can’t seem to get out of its own way in times of large or mega disasters.
Can you imagine with no water, toilets don’t flush and they back up quickly and American citizens had to go out doors in the elements to relieve themselves for weeks and in most cases without any toilet paper?
FEMA had known for more than a week that Maria was likely to hit Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands where there were nearly 4 million people and property at dangerous and live threatening risk.
Much of the suffering is continuing and is expected to in the days, weeks, months and yes even years after Maria has passed. This did not happen in a vacuum; instead, the blame lays squarely with FEMA – the failure of FEMA to plan, prepare for and respond aggressively to the storm. These failures were not just conspicuous; they were pervasive. Among the many factors that contributed to these failures, long-term warnings went unheeded and FEMA officials neglected their duties to prepare for a forewarned catastrophe; FEMA officials took insufficient actions or made poor decisions in the days immediately before and after landfall; The systems on which Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands relied on to support their emergency response efforts failed, and FEMA Administer Brock Long failed to provide effective leadership. These individual failures, moreover, occurred against a backdrop of failure, over time, to develop the capacity for a coordinated, national response to a truly catastrophic event, whether caused by nature or man-made. The results were tragic loss of life and human suffering on a massive scale, and an undermining of confidence in our governments’ ability to plan, prepare for and respond to national catastrophes.
Effective response to mass emergencies is a critical role for FEMA and every level of government. It is a role that requires an unusual level of planning, coordination and dispatch among governments’ diverse agencies.
FEMA leadership either knew or should have known the disaster was near at hand and FEMA should have ordered the evacuation of the islands peoples most at risk.
The Government has the authority to request or if necessary commandeer cruise ships and passenger airliners. FEMA should have used that authority and evacuated the islands immediately. Having the ships bring in emergency supplies and pickup passengers to Evac. The same is true with the airlines. Bring in emergency supplies and bring out American citizens to safety.
As soon as the storm passed FEMA should have had a contingency arrangement with the military to have them ready to immediately parachute in the 101st and the 82 airborne with medics, Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics. With FEMA coordinating massive strategic airdrops of water, food and medical supplies throughout the Islands. FEMA should have immediately dispatched hospital ships, freighters, and oil and gas tankers. FEMA must ahead of time included trucks, trailers with drivers as emergency supplies arrived in the islands ports. Heavy equipment, bull dozers, frontend loaders, etc. to clear highways and roads throughout the islands so emergency supplies can reach those that need it most. FEMA’s heavy equipment operators should be available at a moments notice to respond to disasters. Communication lines of contact through pre- establishing HAM radio stations throughout America including all U.S. territories will provide pertinent and life saving communications when normal communications are down or unavailable.
The mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital city San Juan issued a plea for urgent help as she expressed frustration with the speed at which rescuers were being sent to work on the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory. “This is a big S.O.S for anybody out there,” Carmen Yulin Cruz told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, “a plea for this help, which is right here, to get moving.” Cruz said many rescuers on the ground had been left without marching orders and said she was aware of instances where medics had waited for two days before being briefed.“ The red tape needs to be ripped off as if it were a band aid,” she said, “there are boots on the ground…but those boots need to start walking.”
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said Wednesday that search and rescue efforts were complete, and that the focus is now on distributing supplies, including food, water and gasoline. DHS has asked the Defense Logistics Agency to help the National Guard troops on the ground there. AT&T is on island to work on restoring cell service, she said. The electrical grid is more of a challenge, Duke said, adding that it's "virtually gone."
Meanwhile Puerto Ricans rushed to get basic necessities to the island’s most vulnerable populations, in what Cruz called a "terrifying humanitarian crisis."
In San Juan where only a few FEMA officials have been spotted and they were only standing around and didn’t seem to be doing anything to help. In the capital, a group of about 50 volunteers has been mobilizing in residences for the elderly, finding people in buildings that lacked food, running water, access to their medicines and were dealing with no electricity in stifling heat. “Some of these folks were bedridden, some were dehydrated because they have not been able to get any water or food for a number of days,” Armando Valdés Prieto, a lawyer and volunteer, told NBC News by phone of one building he visited. “Some of them didn’t even remember when they’d last eaten.”
In buildings with no power, diabetic patients were unable to refrigerate their insulin. Elevators were also no longer working in some of the residences, leaving many with limited mobility unable to leave their apartments, for help. They all said that they had not heard anything from FEMA.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, this country went through one of the most sweeping reorganizations of federal government in history. While driven primarily by concerns of terrorism, the reorganization was designed to strengthen our nation’s ability to address the consequences of both natural and manmade disasters. In at least two major tests, this reorganized system failed. Katrina and Maria reveal that much remains to be done. FEMA either knew or should have known the dangers and should have taken preemptive appropriate life saving action.
Why FEMA wasn’t better prepared? The 15000 Fema employees all know the vulnerabilities of the elderly, the infirmed, and the disabled during and after disasters. FEMA should have made sure that all hospitals, nursing homes and other elderly care facilities should have been evacuated during the week or so before the storm hit. FEMA’S director Brock Long has a lengthy back ground in emergency preparedness, and should have known what was immediately needed, especially when it comes to helpless and older folks. Emergency managers around the country wonder why Fema wasn’t more aggressive in evacuating or at least insisting that their first responders evacuate venerable and helpless elderly. In the aftermath of the storm the survivors confronted a multitude of known and unknown hazards in the storm's wake as best they could with limited resources.
Many cities, county and state officials say FEMA should have more strategically placed emergency supplies throughout the America’s. These should be fully stocked warehouses that can withstand storms, earthquakes and other mega storms, with all necessary emergency supplies. The building can than be used as a safe emergency shelter when needed. Every state, county and city in America should have these types of emergency facilities throughout their jurisdictions.
According to some FEMA employees who all wish to remain anonymous fearing reprisals or retaliations said, “What most people don’t know is that FEMA is not a 1st responder agency. FEMA trains and finances through grants to municipalities, counties and state first responders that can be called on to response to disasters in all parts of the nation. FEMA is charged with coordinating these efforts. In doing so FEMA personal are mainly paper pushers and fill out FEMA’s many forms. Many FEMA employees say there is so much paper work that they can not do their jobs. FEMA’s unofficial motto is “Cover your ass and stay in your own lane”.
As reported by congress in the past FEMA’s response to some major disasters has been slow, disorganized, and profligate. The agency’s actions have sometimes been harmful, such as when it has blocked the relief efforts of other organizations. FEMA’s dismal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 dramatized the agency’s bureaucratic dysfunction. FEMA’s grants for disaster preparedness are known for wastefulness. As for the NFIP, its insurance subsidies are spurring development in flood-prone areas, which in turn is increasing the damage caused by floods. The NFIP also encourages an expansion of federal regulatory control over local land-use planning. Federalism is supposed to undergird America’s system of handling disasters, particularly natural disasters. State, local, and private organizations should play the dominant role. Looking at American history, many disasters have generated large outpourings of aid by volunteers, individuals, businesses, and charitable groups.
The Congressional Executive summery went on to further state “however, growing federal intervention is undermining the role of private institutions and the states in handling disasters. Policymakers should reverse course and begin cutting FEMA. Ultimately, the agency should be closed down by ending aid programs for disaster preparedness and relief and privatizing flood insurance”.
After the less than stellar performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the hurricane Sandy natural disaster, Americans may well wonder if any federal agency can be counted on to successfully accomplish its designated mission efficiently. Redundancy, and mismanagement (e.g. the Government Services Administration), have appreciable inefficiencies, and also suffer from funding issues. Citizens can legitimately question the federal government's ability to successfully accomplish even simple tasks on time and on budget.
FEMA, however, was a department enacted with a high purpose: to address the twin concerns of civil defense and disaster mitigation. Specifically, its two core missions are, (1) to improve the federal government's ability to survive a foreign attack (e.g. a nuclear war), and (2) to assist state and local authorities in responding to natural disasters. From its inception FEMA has been a study in evolution of purpose, organization, usage, and politicization. FEMA has often attracted negative attention during natural disasters, attention that triggered in-depth investigations, initiated mission adjustments, caused revisions in organizational structure, and improvements in strategies and tactics. Each change has further exacerbated FEMA's disaster resolution problems. The changes have also increased its politicization, its use of patronage as a reward, and the distribution of "pork barrel" funds to cronies of the sitting presidents.
FEMA was created in March of 1979 by executive order under President Jimmy Carter to bring together a complicated array of overlapping jurisdictions in three governmental agencies: Commerce, Housing, and Urban Development, along with the executive branch. In theory, the objective was to rationalize organizational structure and streamline decision making to enhance implementation of the two core missions. Prior to FEMA's formation, natural disasters were dealt with in a one-off manner with legislation enacted to deal with each individual crisis up and until roughly 1930.
In 1932 President Herbert Hoover started the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). The RFC was initially designed to lend money to banks to energize economic activity and to distribute federal funds (often in the form of outright grants) in the wake of disasters. From this tiny beginning the RFC grew and matured into the agency now known as FEMA.
Yet major natural disasters, beginning with hurricane Andrew in 1992, the South Florida hurricanes of 2004, and hurricane Katrina in 2005, exposed material deficiencies in FEMA's response capabilities. In fairness, a number of the criticisms cited were a function of a misinterpretation of FEMA's charter and mission. FEMA's core mission was to "assist local and state agencies" in responding to natural disasters, not to function as the primary or secondary responder. Nevertheless, FEMA clearly was not structured to deal with mega disasters and an in-depth review after Katrina in 2005 exposed appreciable shortcomings, shortcomings that had already been revealed in at least three assessments subsequent to hurricane Andrew in 1992. These deficiencies included:
Lack of fast-reaction forces which could be quickly added to the trained personnel already on staff in each of FEMA's 11 preparedness districts (Regions) throughout the country that respond to area disasters.
No workable budget. FEMA's budget allocates 60% of the available funds to each state equally, not on a risk basis, therefore leaving a funding amount too small to deal with a specific major problem in any jurisdiction.
No ability or technology to communicate within and/or outside the area of destruction during and immediately after an incident.
Lack of clear, predetermined lines of communication between local and state governments and the specific individuals representing each of the responding entities.
No ability and necessary equipment/supplies to preposition in advance of a pending disaster... water, generators, fuel, food, blankets, temporary shelter etc... And, if you will, a super group deployable at ground zero of the disaster area to enhance the district team's supply capabilities.
No clear standards for interacting with the victims of a tragedy and a tested methodology for setting realistic expectations regarding future actions and interactions.
During 2003, FEMA was incorporated into the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS), therefore losing its independence and adding complexity. Its organizational structure became so complicated that only a Ph.D in structural engineering could understand the lines of authority. Additionally, FEMA never received the funding necessary to prepare for catastrophic disasters and meet its daunting responsibilities.
Prior to the founding of DHS, FEMA had begun to morph into a highly politicized entity, since it retained the ability to grant large sums of funding (read pork) to state and local governments (and cronies), and its staffing was largely by appointment at both the federal and district levels. Funding to states and local entities followed the number of disaster declarations cited by the administration in power. During the George H.W. Bush years an average of 43.5 declarations per year were made. Under Bill Clinton the number grew to 89.5 per year, then to 129.6 per year under George W. Bush and finally to an incredible 153.0 per year (thru 2011) under Barack Obama. In addition, from March 2009 to October 2011, FEMA employment grew from 4,400 to 7,470, an increase of 70%. (The Obama record is astonishing since within this time-frame no terrorist attacks occurred, no Category 2 or higher hurricanes happened, and no earthquake with a force of 6.0 or more on the Richter scale struck. FEMA during the same period seems to have been utilized as a tool or mechanism to build reelection support.)
After the founding of DHS and its detailed reviews of FEMA, after the Katrina FEMA collapse and many more reviews and adjustments, after Irene, a $20 billion disaster, and further investigations, FEMA has shown little or no improvement in dealing with the Sandy recovery. Events suggest that two conclusions can be drawn: first, the inadequacies described above and identified pre-Katrina remain embedded in the organization, and second, that the agency has become a corrupt, pork-barrel delivery vehicle for the administration in power. Like so many other federal agencies and departments, FEMA remains incapable of satisfying its core missions. Americans have every right to be cynical, but also have an obligation to demand the elimination of agencies and/or departments that can no longer perform as designed and promised. A possible solution would be a return to one-off funding of each disaster by Congress as they occur or alternately FEMA should ask the President to pre-declare disasters where possible.
Sources: Congress of the United States of America, REPORT OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS Read more: www.lagunajournal.com http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/11/another_federal_disaster.htm...
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