The Knight Ridder article "FEMA red tape persists after Rita, Texans say" doesn't make me very sympathetic to the Texans quoted. Perhaps that's me, or maybe it's one kind of media bias or another, or maybe not:
Sulphur, La., lawyer Jim Hopkins said he was told that the wait for a temporary roof from FEMA was two weeks.
"This isn't Phoenix, Arizona," Hopkins said. "It's going to rain within two weeks."
I have to ask: why can't you make temporary repairs yourself?
[...a mayor wants generators, gets a portable shower instead...]
David Passey, FEMA spokesman in Texas, yesterday defended the agency's efforts.
"Part of the whole week has been an understanding process for many of these mayors - understanding how the emergency-management system works," he said.
Requests go to the state and then to the federal government, he said, and some requests for generators may not have been passed to FEMA.
In addition, he said, before installing a generator, a team must make sure that the building is safe and that the generators are appropriate.
The mayors of Nederland, Port Arthur and Port Neches, all in Jefferson County, said they had encountered too much bureaucracy while trying to obtain basic supplies from FEMA...
It sounds like at least two things could have been done to avoid some of this:
1. Better computerization of requests and making sure possible requests are in a database somewhere and have been approved or similar,
2. Making local officials do their homework instead of finding out how things work only when they need to know.
The first might not be possible without a billion-dollar program to update FEMA's computers, but you never know how little it might cost.
The last could be almost free, although one can see the possibility of someone proposing a multi-billion dollar awareness campaign, and that would need to be guarded against.
Another needed program might be to teach some people about self-reliance and how the residents of their area did things a century ago.
See also the Boston Globe article discussed in "Mayors re-whine about FEMA response to Rita". From the article itself:
...Griffith protested that FEMA-supplied generators sat unused at the Ford Park arena in Beaumont for several days. The city of Nederland could not get a generator for its emergency operations center.
''We didn't get the damn thing," said Nederland Mayor Dick Nugent, who said the city had to buy four generators to power the emergency center and other services after his request to federal officials did not come through...