FEMA Missing Disaster Plan Deadline
When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast and inundated New Orleans and other Gulf cities, it was Mike Brown, then the head of FEMA who took the brunt of the criticism. Almost immediately, our emergency response efforts at all levels – local, state, and federal were scrutinized. First and foremost was the implication of the poor response was a requirement for much needed changes in our disaster planning and preparedness. The second was that the US needed a more reliable and redundant communications systems, including a better emergency warning system. If the country wasn’t able to deal with a natural disaster, what would occur in the event of another mass casualty terrorist attack?
After Katrina, FEMA updated the National Response Plan (May 25, 2006) and established a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents incorporating incident management best practices and attempting to integrate the efforts of homeland security, emergency management, law enforcement, firefighting, public works, public health, responder and recovery worker health and safety, emergency medical services, and the private sector (see the January 2005 news release announcing the then “new” National Response Plan – nine months before Katrina flooded New Orleans).
Last week, FEMA announced that it was very likely going to miss the June 1st deadline for its new National Response Plan. Last year, the hurricane season was unexpectedly tame. Now, with the 2007 season bearing down on us, FEMA says that the development of the new plan had been delayed by unexpected issues, and more time is needed to resolve them. The real problem is that no new timetable was announced, leaving FEMA to implement the modified version of the pre-Katrina era.
"Every post-Katrina report cited the enormous flaws with the current national response plan, yet here we are six weeks until hurricane season and FEMA has once again dropped the ball," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Failing to have a revised plan in place and relying solely on the previously failed one is irresponsible and unacceptable.
This follows a report last September (2006) that FEMA urban rescue teams were understaffed and unprepared.
Early predictions for 2007 are that the Caribbean will see greater than average activity , with the potential for a Gulf Coast strike of 49% (versus a normal of 30%). And it appears that FEMA isn’t ready.