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Beeb tries for Brown, FEMA scoop and fails

The BBC will be showing a doc called "The Hurricane That Shook America", and they promote it in Fema 'knew of New Orleans danger'.
There appear to be two slightly newsworthy bits of info:

a key briefing officer within Fema sent a message directly to Mr Brown early on the day before Katrina hit, warning him of potentially disastrous flooding in New Orleans, which could trap more than 100,000 people.

I'm pretty sure Brown knew that was a possibility. The question is what details were provided and the major question is what happened after the floodwalls/levees failed. Was there specific information in the memo that Brown did not act on? Recall he wanted a mandatory evacuation. Perhaps the memo should have been sent to Blanco, and a few days before the storm.

Walter Maestri, head of emergency preparedness for Jefferson Parish, told the BBC that Fema officials promised emergency teams from the area that they would supply food, water, medical provisions, and assistance with transporting evacuees from the city - all within 48 hours of the emergency.
In the event, these emergency teams were left without the help they asked for.

Is that news?

Ivor van Heerden, an expert on hurricanes from Louisiana State University, told the BBC that local officials had taken the predictions of the Pam exercise rather more seriously than their federal counterparts.

Covered by Sixty Minutes a few weeks ago.
As for the headline of their story, obviously everyone knew the levees weren't built for a Category 5 storm.

Don't bring your guns to FEMA City

A FEMA trailer city outside Baker LA, known as "FEMA City", bans residents from having firearms according to a report aired on the 10/6 NewsHour. The Second Amendment Foundation is looking into the matter.
10/12 UPDATE: FEMA is reportedly reconsidering their ban.

New Orleans had contracts with bus companies to do evacuations?

The Loyola University Hurricane Emergency Plan (effective August 1, 2003) is available here or in this cached page, and it contains this:

Limited bus transportation is available to evacuate those resident students who are unable to evacuate on their own. Loyola can only evacuate approximately 150 remaining residents. The City of New Orleans and other agencies contract commercial bus carriers to evacuate hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, etc., and those providers will not normally reserve busses for the university to transport college students.

In the comments, please post additional information on this. What happened to the contracted buses? Are these the buses that were used to transport people to the Superdome, the shelter of last resort? What type of evac was done of Loyola?
See the last comment here, reporting on the on-the-scene reports from "ColdChef":

While it is true that there was no clear plan of evacuation (at least to the everyday citizens of New Orleans), on-the-fly plans involving buses and the Superdome fell into place quickly. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful, clear days and even though police drove around with bullhorns, begging people to at least head for higher ground, many people never even attempted to evacuate or seek shelter.... I know people involved in the evacuation effort and NO ONE was denied help if they asked for it. So, yes, while the plans were lacking and they relied heavily on self-preservation, there were alternatives. Alternatives that were, for whatever reason, ignored.


The local nursing home was taking elderly refugees from New Orleans and they needed help unloading them when they got there.... Five large tourbuses from New Orleans showed up with at least fifty patients on each. For the next four hours we carried these old folks off the buses, put them into wheelchairs and brought them inside.

And, see this.
And, refering to a different university:

Edwards was one of about 400 Xavier students who weathered the storm on campus while waiting to be rescued. "I did not evacuate. I originally thought that the school had an evacuation plan for us, so I stuck around until the last minute," Edwards said. "That's when I learned there was no plan."
He was in a seven-story dormitory that lost parts of its roof in the fierce storm. The students, staying on the third and fourth floors of the building, waited for help for nearly a week.
On Thursday morning, the New Orleans Police Department arrived on boats to rescue the students.

(Originally via this)

Odd: death toll tops 1000; "body bag buying binge" recounted

The blurb "Katrina's death toll in La. tops 1,000" has a little more on the first part of the title.
The K-R article "Chaotic coordination had government scrambling for body bags" (also here) describes FEMA's frantic search for more bags, all the while that they had thousands of bags on hand, including a thousand at a state government office in Louisiana. You might not want to read the end of that article or this paragraph: they claim that due to the conditions of some bodies up to three bags were required. As well, they put pets and those disinterred in their own bags.
Of course, that could also result in conspiracy theories being developed.
See also the AP's 9/7 article "25,000 body bags on hand in Louisiana".
An unverified summary of the numbers is here:

2004/05 DOD 25,000 ordered for Iraq/Afg
2004/05 DOD 89,748 ordered for US
8/26/05 NOLA 1,000 onhand in Coroners off.
8/26/05 DOD 100,000 on hand in CA/PA/US
9/xx/01 FEMA 25,000 ordered for MS/LA
9/7/05 FEMA 3,000 on hand MS DMORT
9/7/05 FEMA 8,000 on hand LA DMORT
9/7/05 DOD 17,000 on hand LA DMORT
9/7/05 FEMA/DOD ordered 50,000 status not known
9/xx/05 LA/Kenyon 12,500 ordered in contract with Kenyon
9/xx/05 FEMA 10,000 canceled
10/xx/05 DOD 30,000 ordered not del yet
Costs (25,000 body bags @ $5-50 dollars (SC bags needed 3 per body)
FEMA/MS/LA $250,000 Early Sept 05
LA $25,000 Sept 12 (bought through Kenyon?)
Note: Pets and disinterred bodies also got body bags(Yah, sure)DOD might have sent more to MS.

FEMA to re-bid $400 million in contracts; NYT bias

Speaking before a Senate panel, David Paulison, acting head of FEMA, says they're going to get new bids on $400 million worth of contracts:

"It sure looks, with hindsight, that FEMA would have been in a much better position if it had had a lot of contracts in place that had been bid that were standby contracts to provide exactly the kind of services that FEMA rushed in to provide on a no-bid basis," Mr. Lieberman said. He said "taxpayers may have ended up paying more money" than they should have.

Partial good news, although:

Critics said they welcomed the decision to reconsider the deals, but questioned why the effort did not include some no-bid contracts awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Now, let's take a look at New York Times bias:

The four contracts up for rebidding were awarded early last month to The Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, La., Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Bechtel National of San Francisco and CH2M Hill of Denver. They have already won commitments from FEMA for a total of $125 million in work, identifying sites for trailers and mobile homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees and then installing the housing across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Government watchdog groups have been raising questions from the moment these contracts were awarded. The Shaw Group's lobbyist is Joe M. Allbaugh, the former FEMA director and a friend of President Bush. Bechtel has ties to the Republican Party; George Shultz, the former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, is on the corporation's board, and Riley P. Bechtel, the chairman and chief executive, served on President Bush's Export Council.

What they consistently forget to tell their readers is that the head of the Shaw Group used to head the Louisiana Democratic Party.

" Computer systems at FEMA were lacking in 2004, says IG"

This article is very similar to the earlier post "Brown told FEMA computers were inadequate", but it has some excerpts from the report in question:

The agency's e-mail servers lacked the space to accommodate messages and documents sent from state and local emergency centers, according to the IG audit. If the e-mail servers were not cleared five to 10 times a day, they would crash. In one instance when they were down for two hours during one Florida hurricane.
Emergency workers were unable to save or download documents, Rather than expanding the server capacity, the department instructed workers to log off the system while the files were moved one by one.
The surge of disaster victim registrations from the Florida hurricanes overloaded the National Emergency Management Information System, which was originally designed to handle 20,000 registrations per day, but reached 40,000 per day during peak periods.
According to the report, FEMA's IT systems are old, custom-designed, complex and unable to adapt to change. The systems' inability to provide real-time information on the status of emergency workers put people at risk during the hurricanes, the IG concluded.

The report itself is in this 1.8 Meg PDF file. It's mostly IT gobbledygook, with little real info on the programming itself.


FEMA cancels a housing program

From the WSJ (excerpts):

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Even as the Federal Emergency Management Agency struggles to provide temporary housing for hundreds of thousands of displaced storm victims, the disaster-relief organization has ordered the abrupt end to a high-priority program to help restart key businesses by providing housing for displaced workers. Louisiana officials expressed outrage that FEMA was shuttering what many saw as the one program that effectively got evacuees into temporary shelter and back into the work force near New Orleans. The effort had placed about 6,000 Louisiana workers in nearly 2,400 travel trailers at industrial sites across hurricane-ravaged southeast Louisiana. Most were at large refineries owned by energy and chemical giants including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Murphy Oil Corp., Dow Chemical Co., DuPont and Monsanto Co.
State officials familiar with the situation say that FEMA stepped in to shut down the program on Sept. 30. The federal agency distributed a memo that day from Daniel A. Craig, director of the recovery division, stating that while FEMA has received requests from various state and local officials to provide housing for employees of companies disrupted or damaged by Hurricane Katrina, "the first requirement for ... housing is that the entity must provide a service essential to the restoration of the community."
...State officials say the day FEMA killed the program the agency delivered a pamphlet outlining the environmental reviews that must be done for each trailer site. That review encompasses everything from hazard materials and air, water and soil concerns to endangered species. "The only endangered species down here now are Louisianans," says one state official. "And with a little help, they might actually survive." FEMA's spokesman says "we want to help the state, but the state has to help us. We need to make sure the money is going to the right people. We have to justify who is getting these homes."


FEMA-contracted call center gave false info about flood insurance

Oct. 4, 2005 - Hundreds of thousands of hurricane flood victims along the Gulf Coast are only now realizing they were misled by the government on their need for flood insurance.
State floodplain officials tell ABC News that the floodplain maps, created by FEMA and used by the federal government, are both outdated and inaccurate. They also say the government has known of the inaccuracies.
Based on those maps, residents of parts of St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana were told that they did not need federal flood insurance. They lived in sections of the parish that fall outside FEMA's designated Flood Hazard Area...
The confidential audit, prepared by James, found that large numbers of callers were badly misled about their need for flood insurance. ABC News obtained the audit documents from a source other than James. Members of Congress have repeatedly asked FEMA for a copy of the report. As of today, FEMA officials say the agency has not yet turned over the audit.
"Three-thousand calls a month - 500, 600 calls a month of which were gravely erroneous. That's a serious problem," said James of the report's findings.
FEMA says it has since replaced the Tallahassee answering service with another one, but that does little for those who relied on its maps.
"The people who relied upon these maps, in many cases, ended up in harm's way, flooded, without flood insurance, and had no idea that they were in danger," asserted Steve Kanstoroom, founder of, a Web site advocating for flood victims...

FEMA sub-sub-contracting leads to possible loss

A landlord in Florida got a check for $6000 from FEMA for housing refugees. Problem: they never housed anyone, and the apartments in question have been vacant for months: "FEMA pay puzzles landlord". Let's look who did what:

[The landlord] sent an e-mail [informing them about the money] to Corporate Lodging Consultants of Wichita, Kan., which sent the checks. The consulting company works for the American Red Cross, which FEMA uses to administer a lodging reimbursement program.

Obviously, the chain of responsibility is a bit deep here. For a prior example of that, read about the FEMA buses. I don't know about the current case, but in that case I'd imagine that all those in the chain weren't working for free.


FEMA suspends PHX SAR team over bringing in own security

FEMA has suspended the Phoenix Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team because they brought in armed cops:

At issue is a rule in FEMA's Code of Conduct that prohibits Urban Search and Rescue teams from having firearms. Phoenix's team that deployed for Hurricane Katrina relief and again for Hurricane Rita included four police officers deputized as U.S. marshals.
Phoenix police were added to the team about a year ago, and officials say they are essential to protecting firefighters and FEMA's $1.4 million worth of equipment. Firefighters do not carry weapons...
...After Hurricane Katrina, firefighters faced deployment to areas plagued by looting and lawlessness. Twice, Phoenix's team was confronted by law enforcement officers who refused to let them pass through their communities and told them to "get out or get shot," Gordon said...
Phoenix's team was credited with plucking more than 400 Hurricane Katrina survivors from rooftops and freeway overpasses in flooded sections of New Orleans.



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