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"FEMA chief waited until after storm hit"


The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region - and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.
Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged Tuesday the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged...
...Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said Brown had positioned front-line rescue teams and Coast Guard helicopters before the storm. Brown's memo on Aug. 29 aimed to assemble the necessary federal work force to support the rescues, establish communications and coordinate with victims and community groups, Knocke said.
Instead of rescuing people or recovering bodies, these employees would focus on helping victims find the help they needed, he said...
...Brown's memo told employees that among their duties, they would be expected to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."
"FEMA response and recovery operations are a top priority of the department and as we know, one of yours," Brown wrote Chertoff. He proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security Department employees within 48 hours and 2,000 within seven days.
Knocke said the 48-hour period suggested for the Homeland employees was to ensure they had adequate training. "They were training to help the life-savers," Knocke said.
Employees required a supervisor's approval and at least 24 hours of disaster training in Maryland, Florida or Georgia. "You must be physically able to work in a disaster area without refrigeration for medications and have the ability to work in the outdoors all day," Brown wrote.
The same day Brown wrote Chertoff, Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments. Brown said it was vital to coordinate fire and rescue efforts.
Meanwhile, the airline industry said the government's request for help evacuating storm victims didn't come until late Thursday afternoon. The president of the Air Transport Association, James May, said the Homeland Security Department called then to ask if the group could participate in an airlift for refugees.

In addition to all the complaints about the numbers and dates, shouldn't they have been trained well in advance?

FEMA or Louisiana: Who was "in charge"?

The unconfirmed post here goes into detail on what FEMA being "in charge" meant:

...Blanco declared a State-level emergency on the 26th, Bush declared it a Federal emergency on the 27th. So far, so good.
No, neither DHS nor FEMA are or can be "in charge," nor did Blanco request such a thing. They coordinate. There's a difference. At all times, the National Guard of the State of Louisiana remained under the direction of Governor Blanco. There were discussions held to federalize these troops, and indeed the entire effort, but Blanco refused. This means she was in charge.
Did you read what Blanco specifically requested from the feds on the 28th? Read it; I can tell you didn't. It's about funding, and after-the-fact assistance for people who lost their homes and so on. There's nothing in there like "send us 1,000 boats" or "send us 100,000 MRE's." Nothing like that. The only thing in there that required immediate attention from Bush was the request for 100% (as opposed to 75%) federal funding. Bush declared that the next day.
Did you read those things about "don't self-dispatch?" That's to keep well-meaning free-lancers from going down there, unknown to anyone, and becoming more load on the rescue system. All they say is, "work through the Red Cross or the Salvation Army." It's not like they told people not to do anything. They just don't want a bunch of stray people wandering in there to "help."
Aaron Broussard has the credibility of a snake. Wal-Mart was sending in water "a week ago (Saturday)?" Yeah, sure it was. And FEMA was there to turn them back a week ago? Yeah, sure it was. Who knows if he's telling the truth about anything?
You're the second guy in here today that seems to think that FEMA is some kind of domestic 'army' that's supposed to parachute in and save the day. That's not what they do. They fund things. They "coordinate." They've got a few guys with rescue boats, and some guys who can set up communications, but past that they're bureaucrats who sit in front of computer screens and telephones and try to hire contractors and tell the Red Cross where to set up, and stuff like that.
All this stuff like dropping MRE's from helicopters is what the National Guard does... and that reports to Blanco. The only serious federal assets that can run around rescuing civilians in the US belong to the Coast Guard, and as well all saw, the Coast Guard helicopters were there as soon as the gale-force winds were gone and the Sun was up... which was Wednesday morning...


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