Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Who is in charge? I got some clarification from experienced Emergency Management/FEMA folks up here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Who is in charge? I got some clarification from experienced Emergency Management/FEMA folks up here.

The biggest unanswered question down in the chaos that is New Orleans - who is in charge and what are they in charge of?

I ended up talking extensively about just that with Emergency Management personnel at my job. Here is what I understand from them:

1) New Orleans local and Louisiana state governments are responsible for public safety...with assistance from the military. That is the clear mission of the National Guard in the absence of local law enforcement. Additional efforts cannot be fully mobilized until that is locked down.

2) Movement/transport and placement of civilian personnel also falls within the mission of local law enforcement and/or the National Guard, with assistance from the military. While Homeland Security and FEMA can provide logistical aid, FEMA cannot provide personnel for that type of operation as it is once again a safety issue.

3) Levee repair and flood-water drainage are FEMA/primarily Corps of Engineers functions. Another reason the huge budget cuts to New Orleans and Mississippi Valley Civil Works programs are an immediate problem is because each District has a specialized team they contribute to FEMA operations...the flood control teams are located in New Orleans and Mississippi and have been heavily effected by the cuts.

4) Structural repairs and construction after water drainage is complete will be partially handled by FEMA/the Corps but mostly contracted out. (And it appears some or all of that is already going to Halliburton KBR.) Alaska has one of the structural teams so that is when they will be deployed. Everything is a guess, but experienced folks don't believe those teams will be able to go in until around November. That is really scary.

Secretary of DHS Chertoff and Undersecretary Brown of FEMA SHOULD ABSOLUTELY be heavily called to task for their lack of knowledge as to their own responsibilities, what the tasks are and who they belong to. This has been a MAJOR contribution to the extreme confusion over "who is in charge" after Katrina and has probably put what FEMA personnel are down there in danger due to anger and frustration.

However, criticism of FEMA response is premature and misplaced...and a really convenient attempt to divert attention and blame from the incompetence of the New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor.


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