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RE: Katrina emergency response

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CHRONOLOGY.... Here's a timeline that outlines the
fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New
Orleans under the Bush administration. Read it and

January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from
Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous
experience in disaster management.

April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces
the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of
FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will
be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal
disaster assistance may have evolved into both an
oversized entitlement program...." he said.
"Expectations of when the federal government should be
involved and the degree of involvement may have
ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New
Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most
catastrophic disasters facing this country."

December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA,
Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a
consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do
business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy,
Michael Brown, who, like Allbaugh, has no previous
experience in disaster management.

March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level
position and folded into the Department of Homeland
Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts
of terrorism.

2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS,
FEMA's preparation and planning functions are
reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and
Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response
and recovery.

Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster
mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish
flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we
would get maximum consideration....This is what the
grant program called for. We were more than qualified
for it."

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for
levee construction in New Orleans is slashed.
Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter
Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been
moved in the president's budget to handle homeland
security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the
price we pay."

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2
million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the
Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which
was created after the May 1995 flood to improve
drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany

August 2005: While New Orleans is undergoing a slow
motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a
cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills,
delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with
his vacation. When he finally gets around to
acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he
delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat,
defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.

A crony with no relevant experience was installed as
head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were
slashed even though it was known to be one of the top
three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately
downsized as part of the Bush administration's
conservative agenda to reduce the role of government.
After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and
planning functions were taken away.

Actions have consequences. No one could predict that
a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year,
but the slow federal response when it did happen was
no accident. It was the result of four years of
deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that
favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of
operational competence. It's the Bush administration
in a nutshell.
Henry Breitrose
Professor of Communication
Department of Communication
Stanford University
Stanford, California USA 94305-2050

-----Original Message-----
From: Harold Sprague [mailto:spraguehope(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2005 11:29 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: Katrina emergency response

There are a few things that should be considered in gauging the response to

1.  FEMA Urban Search and Rescue are considered first responders.  As such
they have extensive training, and deploy to be self sufficient.  Their
training includes all aspects that you could consider including HAZMAT,
safety, emergency medicine, rescue, logistics, structural assessment and
shoring.  They deploy with dogs and remote sensing equipment.  They train as
teams, and they cross train in other areas such as water rescue.  They have
procedures.  Untrained volunteers have often caused dangerous situations for
themselves and interfere with rescue efforts.  The searches are set up on
gridded maps and are coordinated with other teams.  They DO NOT routinely
report to the media.  They just do the work in a professional, organized
manner.  Sometimes volunteers are essential and are critical to recovery.
Sometimes they get in the way, create hazards, and consume TF resources.

2.  The career FEMA people take the lead.  The senior politically appointed
FEMA people do the press conferences and just let the professional career
FEMA people do their work.  During the Clinton administration, there was no
FEMA head for almost 4 months.  FEMA's ability was not compromised.  It made
no difference.  They know what to do in the trenches.

3.  The FEMA TAC contracts will be next and will help the area re-construct.

4.  Any emergency training at all tells people that the locals will have to
be capable of taking care of themselves on a local basis for several days
following a disaster.  All Federal resources take time to set up and deploy.
  You can't deploy a force from a remote location instantly.

5.  Keep in mind that this is the biggest disaster that anyone has ever
attempted to manage.  There will be lessons learned.

6.  FEMA USAR Missouri Task Force 1 deployed early last July for a
hurricane.  They sat around Georgia for a while, and when it petered out and
did not cause any damage they came home.  It cost money, but we were
positioned to respond if it did.  There was no media documenting us sitting
around a hotel.

Could Katrina have been managed better?  Yes, with the aid of hind site.  I
don't recall any outcry to bolster FEMA emergency forces PRIOR to the
arrival of Katrina.  There is enough blame for everyone.  But let's get NO
back on line first.  We will just do the work and let Congress tell us what
we did wrong after we are done.

For the professionals there will be de-briefings to correct problems for
future deployments.  For the amateurs and politicians there will be
Congressional hearings.

Harold Sprague

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