Thursday, April 27, 2006

Surreal Nature Of FEMA

Some U.S. Senators are calling for the total dismantling of FEMA in favor of yet another, newer, better emergency response agency as the next hurricane season looms for the U.S.

The first obligation of government is to protect our people," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation. "In Katrina, we failed at all levels of government to meet that fundamental obligation."

She added: "We must learn from the lessons of Katrina so that next time disaster strikes, whether it's a storm that was imminent and predicted for a long time, or a terror attack that takes us by surprise, government responds far more effectively."

The inquiry's final report, given to lawmakers Thursday, faulted New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco for failing to protect sick and elderly people and others who could not evacuate the city on their own. It also concluded that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown, who then headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, either did not understand federal response plans or refused to follow them."

The proposal is laid out in a 28-page document, to be called the National Preparedness and Response Authority, and would fall under the Dept. of Homeland Security, though it would also have the status of a "distinct entity" such as that of the Coast Guard or Secret Service. Among the document's comments:

"The new organization should bring together the full range of responsibilities that are core to preparing for and responding to disasters. These include the four central functions of comprehensive emergency management – preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation – which need to be integrated. Actions in recent years that removed preparedness grants from FEMA and separated preparedness from response weakened FEMA’s relationship with state officials and undermined its ability to utilize “the power of the purse,” in the form of grant funding, to encourage states to improve their preparedness and response functions. A more comprehensive approach should be restored. If NPRA is going to effectively respond to major events, for example, it needs to have been involved in the preparations for such events. The Director, moreover, must be responsible for the administration and distribution of preparedness grants to state and local governments and for national preparedness training, as these are key tools for ensuring a consistent and coordinated national response system."

Gee, ya think??

Confusions abound. A recent attempt to talk to residents in Lousiana in a FEMA trailer park offers a glimpse into the absurd:

"SECURITY GUARD: Yeah, he -- he can't. That’s not his privilege.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s not allowed to talk?

RENAISSANCE VILLAGE RESIDENT: What's wrong? What's wrong?

SECURITY GUARD: You can go -- get that -- you’ve known the deal since --

RENAISSANCE VILLAGE RESIDENT: No, I don't know the deal. Tell me. What is the deal?

SECURITY GUARD: You can go get interviewed as long as it’s off post. Otherwise, you, like I said, I can call the 800 FEMA number and have them come in --

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, he has to come off of the property?

RENAISSANCE VILLAGE RESIDENT: What is -- there’s a problem being interviewed?

SECURITY GUARD: Turn it off.

Another good location for info on the bizzare aftermath on the Gulf Coast and efforts to restrict just who may or may be eligible to rebuild homes in Louisiana have been tracked by Facing South, one of many posts available here.

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