small brush shouldn't fuck with big timber

Death's Door, the view from the Spanish announcers table: my response

Wednesday, September 7

my response

These are just some of my personal thoughts and I’m not trying to defend FEMA or pass the buck but here’s the deal as I see it. After 9/11 when FEMA got sucked into the huge bureaucracy that is the Department of Homeland Security I knew we were screwed. Screwed as far as our main mission I mean, which is to render aid during times of disaster.

Where before FEMA was one of the few stand alone federal agencies unfettered by congress, we were able to perform our missions without dealing with the political bullshit some of the other federal agencies have to deal with. But since getting sucked into DHS, it seems that FEMA’s budget has been slashed and we've had to deal with Bush appointed leaders that know nothing of what we were all about or how we perform our mission.

And instead of being able to do our thing, as far as I see it now from DHS all we get is “why do you need this? What’s this for? Can’t you do with less”? So now we got people telling us what to do that only a few years before had never heard of FEMA. And lastly the only thing the Bush administration seems to focus on is terrorism which was fine but focusing all our shit on one thing also took from the other.

I work with normal people everyday that think nothing of putting themselves in harms way by going into a disaster area to aid victims. We had people and equipment in place along the gulf coast waiting on Katrina so that we could begin the process ASAP. But like the Army Corp of Engineers who last year asked for over 200 million to build up the levees and pumps around New Orleans and were told to fuck off by congress and were given only a fraction of what they asked for. We’re tripped up by the same bureaucratic bullshit that’s fuckin people in the gulf coast now. But again these are just the thoughts of one person, me.

And for those of you that are unfamiliar with how FEMA functions here are some crib notes. There are 10 FEMA regions in the country that cover various states. And each region in conjunction with local government, state government and other federal peoples partake in at least 3 to 4 tabletop exercises a year using various disaster scenarios.

And I think the same thing is also done on a national level. But FEMA does insist and encourage event planning on a local and state level. And here’s something a lot of people don’t realize about FEMA, we’re never the first responders into a disaster. Here how it works in short.

..... Take for instance something happens in a large city like a tornado. The local city or county government assesses the damage and if it’s beyond their capabilities they appeal to the state…

......If it’s beyond the state level to deal with the damage the state government will appeal to FEMA who does a write-up of the damage and sends it to Washington…...

.....Washington/president reviews the write-up and signs it as a declaration…..

.....Only then, and I repeat only then can federal monies be released and FEMA goes in and does their thing. And I repeat, as a norm FEMA can only move once the president signs the declaration. This is why you’ll see things happen around the country that we’re not involved in. either because the state has decided they can handle it or for some reason the damage figures didn’t add up in Washington and there was no presidential declaration signed.

Depending on the event or how it impacts the local structure this series of events can take anywhere from hours to a few days. In some events of large magnitude like for instance a deviating event of nature, the president will act quickly skipping steps and declare a disaster. And in the event of things like hurricanes that FEMA can see coming, they’ll do a lot of pre-staging of personnel and equipment in the area so as to be ready like what we did during the Florida hurricanes. But understand this, and think about what I’m saying.

....FEMA is never the first responders to a disaster.

....FEMA needs a presidential declaration signed by the president before any action or federal monies can be released.

....The Army and National Guard only go into an area when requested by a governing body like state or federal. They just don’t hop into their shit and show up out of the clear blue. Remember this is America and the last thing people want is the Army or the National Guard showing up on its streets uninvited.

....The above might help answer the ever popular question of why these groups weren’t in New Orleans the second the rains stopped. The same question has been put forth about hospital ships and such which didn’t arrive in town until a few days later. People, Katrina was a cat 5 hurricane, nothing could travel by land or sea in that kind of weather. But all thing considered, it was damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Again I’m not trying to pass the buck or overly defend FEMA or whatever; I’m just putting shit down as I know it. Take it as you will. I broke my number one rule which is to never write about the job but after doing this shit for almost sixteen fuckin years I love what I do and believe in our mission. So I had to say something. So stop hatin……

"and the monkey flipped the switch"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

applause and clapping sounds from the family. now the rest of u, back off!!
--- so says the sister

1:46 PM  
Blogger curmudgeon said...

I appreciate the enlightenment and explanations, even if you did stick your neck out a little further than you should have.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous jharr said...

This is a great overview. Here's my question...didn't Bush sign the disaster declaration on Saturday, a full 2 days before the storm hit? Based on your post that declaration would have been the piece needed to mobilize federal assets. And if so that's ample time for an initial response team, particularly one from the Army Corps of Engineers to be onsite in the event of a catastrophic failure of the levees. No matter how deep the budget cuts have been for domestic issues, FEMA still has a rapid response capability that, if utilized, could have mustered and been on the ground and running before Thursday, 3 days after landfall.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

back off = leave alone; go away; let it be; shut up about it; return to ones own hole; step off; so forth and so on.......
--the sister again

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

most of the horror we have seen
in NOLA is due to a failure of
state and local govt to follow
their own evac plans. The pictures of the hundreds of busses parked
underwater less than a mile from the dome is damning. I have lived on the gulf coast for 54 years and
when I see a cat 3 headed for my asscrack I get my family and go.
FEMA has helped Mobile too many times for me to doubt their ability

11:08 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I couldn’t agree more with the points of your post. To me the problem isn’t with FEMA . . . it’s a problem of leadership. Like you wrote, allocations and initiative come from the top down. The disaster clearly shows how the myopic view of the threat of terrorism can hinder equally important concerns.

Sadly, this thing has just become a political hot potato and it’s getting tossed around till the nation decides to obsess over the next big thing on the tube.

Amazing post . . . as always DD. I would have linked but I don’t want to send any poop your way. It seems like you’ve dealt with enough.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Billy D said...

"....FEMA needs a presidential declaration signed by the president before any action or federal monies can be released."

True. And yes, Mr. Bush did sign it two days beforehand, knowing it was going to get shitty down there. However, without the governor either formally petitioning the president, or signing off authority first, the declaration cannot be acted on. She declined to do either.
FEMA was placed under homeland security at the request of democrat senators, headed by Hillary Clinton. She now is screaming the FEMA should be removed from that sector, which I agree. She does not, however, appear to be reminding people it ended up there because of her.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Grampapinhead said...

Wow, what a powerful piece. and so well composed.
I have to quote it and link it for Friday, the problem is deciding where to lift the quote because it all goes together so well.
I may quote a comment or two also.
Thank You


Man you really stuck your ass out there setting us straight.
I am hoping you have your own witness protection plan in order. You know,
new name, ID, career, and change of scenery............
Good Luck

10:58 AM  
Blogger QueenT said...

I just want to say thanks for breaking this process down in laymens terms for us.

9:26 AM  

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