17 April 2008
A Much Needed Change: FEMA & Hurricane Katrina
It has been almost three years since the catastrophic hurricane winds and water of Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast. New Orleans was the most damaged city and media coverage showed the outcries of the neglected people. Many feel that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to blame and, rightfully so. FEMA is a very disorganized and dysfunctional agency; its entire agency should be revamped. Most critics argue that it was incompetence of government officials and various decisions were or were not made at critical times to ensure the health of the residents. The deficiencies the government had include command and control, communication, coordination, equipment, infrastructure design, leadership, management, planning, and training (Krane 31). The Federal Emergency Management Agency has incurred problems since the creation of it. Competence of appointees is one of the biggest issues. Critics argue that FEMA was filled with political appointees like Michael Brown who had no prior experience with emergency management. There should be changes of the mandate, mission, and most of all placement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Since the beginning of our country disaster has been an unknowing thing that has occurred. Before the creation of FEMA, the government aided overwhelmed communities but most disaster stricken citizen were assisted local and state governments. “Federal involvement dates from at the least the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 which left 478 people dead and more than 250, 000 homeless.” The Civil Defense Act of 1950 was next with a powerful stand against nuclear attack. (Roberts 17). This proves the FEMA has long been associated with the security of the American home front because terrorist attacks are apart of emergencies but should it be? A series of disasters in the 1960s and 1970s such as: The Alaskan Earthquake (1964), Hurricane Betsy (1965), Hurricane Camille (1969), and the San Fernando Earthquake (1971) caused great destruction and lead to proposed change to fix certain problems that caused the disaster in the first place (Roberts 17). In 1979, President Jimmy Carter responded to local and state demands’ and created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Roberts 18).
According to the Department of Homeland Land Security website the FEMA mission is, “DISASTER. It strikes anytime anywhere. It takes many forms – a hurricane, an earthquake, a tornado, a flood or a hazardous spill, an act of nature or an act of terrorism. It builds over days or weeks or hits suddenly, without warning. Every year millions of Americans face disaster, and its terrifying consequences.” This is the mission statement of our Federal Emergency Management Agency. Its sounds very reassuring that that if you ever become victimized by natural disaster that you will be taken care and your needs will be fulfilled no matter what the problems is. I wish this was true in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan gave FEMA a new civil defense mandate intensified by the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The responsibility of the agency was stretched from just flood, fire, etc. response, to leading evacuation warning against nuclear attack. (Roberts 18). Already handling the great pressure of responding to the needs of Americans who were consumed by disaster, the thought of making FEMA in charge of nuclear attack warning was overwhelming. In 1992, the very destructive and Hurricane Andrew caused about 30 billion dollars in south Florida and left 160,000 people homeless. (Roberts 19). FEMA was adequate enough to help but most of the resources were locked up in national security uses. This sound similar to another catastrophic hurricane I know of: Hurricane Katrina which caused the demise of the entire infrastructure of a major city and the physical death of more...