Craig Martelle: FEMA is not a first responder

This is a great article that pretty much mirrors what I thinkg about all this. This should be read and understood by all interested.

Craig Martelle: FEMA is not a first responder

Don’t be so quick to pillory the federal response in New Orleans. Immediate emergency management is primarily a local and state responsibility
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

As one who has received training by FEMA in emergency management and also training by the Department of Defense in consequence management, I believe that the federal response in New Orleans needs clarification.

The key to emergency management starts at the local level and expands to the state level. Emergency planning generally does not include any federal guarantees, as there can only be limited ones from the federal level for any local plan. FEMA provides free training, education, assistance and respond in case of an emergency, but the local and state officials run their own emergency management program.

Prior development of an emergency plan, addressing all foreseeable contingencies, is the absolute requirement of the local government –and then they share that plan with the state emergency managers to ensure that the state authorities can provide necessary assets not available at the local level. Additionally, good planning will include applicable elements of the federal government (those located in the local area). These processes are well established, but are contingent upon the personal drive of both hired and elected officials at the local level.

I’ve reviewed the New Orleans emergency management plan. Here is an important section in the first paragraph.

“We coordinate all city departments and allied state and federal agencies which respond to citywide disasters and emergencies through the development and constant updating of an integrated multi-hazard plan. All requests for federal disaster assistance and federal funding subsequent to disaster declarations are also made through this office. Our authority is defined by the Louisiana Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act of 1993, Chapter 6 Section 709, Paragraph B, ‘Each parish shall maintain a Disaster Agency which, except as otherwise provided under this act, has jurisdiction over and serves the entire parish.’ ”

Check the plan — the “we” in this case is the office of the mayor, Ray Nagin who was very quick and vocal about blaming everyone but his own office. A telling picture, at left, taken by The Associated Press on Sept. 1 and widely circulated on the Internet shows a school bus park, apparently filled to capacity with buses, under about four feet of water. If a mandatory evacuation was ordered, why weren’t all the taxpayer-purchased buses used in the effort?

Who could have predicted the anarchy resulting as a consequence? The individuals who devolved into lawless animals embarrass the entirety of America. (I worked in a U.S. Embassy overseas for a couple years and I can imagine what foreign diplomats are thinking.) What societal factors would ever lead people to believe that this behavior was even remotely acceptable?

The folks in New Orleans who are perpetrating the violence and lawlessness are not that way because of low income or of race, but because they personally do not have any honor or commitment to higher ideals. The civil-rights leaders should be ashamed at playing the blame game.

The blame is on the individuals. The blame is on the society that allowed these individuals to develop the ideal that the individual is greater than the national pride he is destroying. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was very clear in her comments that she was offended at those who suggested the suffering in New Orleans was prolonged because of race.

As a retired Marine, I hang my head in shame to see my fellow Americans degenerate so far. I spent so many years in the Corps helping the citizens of other countries rise to a higher level of personal responsibility to ensure that in case of emergency, anarchy did not necessarily follow. When people are held to a higher standard of personal responsibility and they accept that, then they will do the right thing when the time comes.

It seems that the mayor of New Orleans is leading the effort in not taking responsibility for his actions. The emergency managers for the state of Louisiana do not have much to say either. The failure in the first 48 hours to provide direction for survivors is theirs to live with. When FEMA was able to take over, it started out behind and had to develop its plan on the fly. Now the federal government has established priorities — rescue the stranded, evacuate the city, flow in resources and fix the levee. It appears that now there is a plan and it is being systematically executed.

Hurricane Katrina was a national tragedy — not just in the number of lives lost or the amount of physical damage, but also in the failure of people to do what is right when no one is looking.

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