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October 26, 2005

Rest Easy, America
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:28 PM * 18 comments

FEMA is standing ready to assist in any emergency!

(Thanks to Kos.)

FEMA Press release, 21 October, 2005:

Hit Twice? Register Twice!
Release Date: October 21, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La. — Residents of Louisiana who suffered damages and losses as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita are reminded they must register for disaster assistance for each storm. Registering for aid for Hurricane Rita is separate from any past registration for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA Press release, 24 October, 2005:

Do Not File Duplicate Disaster Assistance Applications
Release Date: October 24, 2005

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana residents affected by one of the two hurricanes to hit the state this year are cautioned NOT to apply more than once for federal disaster assistance. Multiple applications will delay assistance.

Thanks for clearing that up, FEMA. Is there anyone in charge?

While Mike “Horse Shows R Us” Brown is gone, he isn’t forgotten. No, wait, he isn’t gone, either:

[FEMA spokeswoman Nicol] Andrews confirmed that Brown is still on FEMA’s payroll as a consultant. She said he works from home, where he is “pulling all the documentation together” to aid in the investigations into the government’s response to Katrina. His original 30-day contract was recently extended for another 30 days, she said.

Meanwhile, how are folks faring with FEMA in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Wilma? Since Mikey’s remained on the payroll, working on Lessons Learned from Katrina, has response improved?

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Two days after Hurricane Wilma, Floridians faced the unpleasant prospect Wednesday of waiting in lines for hours to get basic necessities such as water and ice.

Amid widespread power outages, thousands of frustrated North Miami residents stood in line for nearly 12 hours Tuesday for a bag of ice and three bottles of water.

“All that time. This is all we get?” asked 23-year-old Fanie Aristil, speaking to The Associated Press after waiting nine hours for the supplies.

Frances Marine, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged Floridians to be patient, AP reported.

“People will have their needs met,” Marine said. “The bottom line is that there’s a plan in place.”

Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security — which is in charge of FEMA — is scheduled to tour Florida’s hurricane damage on Wednesday.

Long lines also formed for supplies in Hollywood, Florida, where a noon distribution time was announced in error. A three-hour wait turned into a seven-hour ordeal.

“Do things decent and in order,” complained one person who endured the wait. “Give people directions and it can be followed properly. Otherwise, shut up.”

Just north of Hollywood, in Dania Beach, men were seen unloading crates of bottled water — but no one was there to receive it.

On Florida’s southwest coast, in Naples, residents were angry when FEMA staff didn’t show up to distribute water when they said they would.

“What are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to count on FEMA. It’s disgusting,” resident Nilsa Colon said.

Naples Mayor Bill Barnett added, “Don’t commit if you can’t deliver.”

They should count their blessings: It’s only two days after Wilma and at least FEMA’s there. Somewhere.

You can’t spend five years tearing down an agency and expect it to function. While Mike Brown is sort-of gone, his two non-qualified assistants (Mr. Bush’s advance man and the guy who produced Mr. Bush’s TV commercials) are still there in the number two and three slots as far as I know.

Darned good thing there hasn’t been a major terrorist attack recently. Nuclear, biological, chemical … do you think those clowns could handle it?

Comments on Rest Easy, America:
#1 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 05:30 PM:

The WashPost reports that Brown had planned to announce his resignation right before Katrina hit and that "lame duck" feeling might account for his poor performance.

#2 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Someone should just mine this shit for a sitcom. Seriously.

#3 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 05:59 PM:

I have several friends and family members who still have not gotten a dime of FEMA money, two months after the fact, because of duplicate applications. Apparently, there are thousands of them. (Dupes, I mean, not family members. Or friends; I'm not that popular.)

Though in this case the duplicates aren't for multiple hurricanes, but confusion over (a)whether adult children should register separately from their parents if they are no longer dependents BUT were living at the same address as their parents; (b) whether otherwise unrelated roommates living at the same address should register separately or together for property damage; (c) whether a person who owns more than one piece of property which has been damaged should register separately for each property...

And so on. The incompetence and confusion on display is unbelievable. My sister has gotten completely contradictory answers on what she should do to correct the double application error every time she calls. In the meantime, she is not eligible for unemployment, and the money from FEMA that was supposed to cushion her while she relocates to a new city and looks for a job is tied up in a veritable mountain of red tape.

A family-wide rumor mill has everyone scared to get too obstreperous about it, though, after hearing the story of the guy who yelled at his FEMA caseworker and was subsequently dropped to the bottom of the waitlist. How did he know he was dropped? Because the FEMA worker told him she was going to do it, for pissing her off.

Or, in other words: Gah.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 06:21 PM:

White House to reinstate wage rules
Bush administration to restore rules that guarantee prevailing pay for workers in hurricane areas.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Reversing a decision made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration will reinstate rules requiring that companies receiving federal contracts for hurricane reconstruction and relief efforts pay local prevailing wages.

They heard that scream! (and probably started counting voters)

#5 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 07:44 PM:

Not to defend FEMA too much, but the press releases don't seem inconsistent, to me. The second one is addressed to "Louisiana residents affected by one of the two hurricanes."

(Emphasis mine, obviously.)

The first is addressed to those who were "hit twice."

#6 ::: Diana Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2005, 07:51 PM:

I applied for aid after Katrina on FEMA's website, and answered truthfully when it asked questions about evacuation, damage, and whether I was in immediate need of food and shelter. I answered truthfully, since I had canned food and a roof over my head, that I was not in immediate need. Based on that, they denied all assistance. Luckily my husband has the Gift of getting things done, and he called FEMA and somehow got it straightened out so that we could get the $2000.

Over the next two weeks they sent us three applications for SBA loans. We did not have major damage, so we had no intention of applying for further aid. Then came a phone call stating that they had to come inspect our property. Umm.. okay, so I let the man come over, and told him that we had minimal damage and really didn't need any more aid. The next day I had a recorded phone call stating that due to the widespread damage in my area, an inspection would not be required. Three days later I got another SBA application in the mail. It's completely insane.

#7 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Brown etc. should be used as crash dummies for equipment testing.... it would provide greater "fidelity" and their lack of cogitation wouldn't be any issue...

As for the wage issue, one of the things that set off a storm under it was the discovery of undocumented aliens working at a military base...

#8 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 09:06 AM:

I'm not sure if this is competent incompetence or incompetent incompetence.

#9 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 09:23 AM:

You know, what is really worrying is that this is after a hurricane -- a disaster whose time and nature are known well ahead of time, with only a very minor degree of uncertainty about exactly where the problems will be, and a well-defined area affected.

Just about any other kind of disaster -- earthquake, terrorism, epidemic -- is messier: either unexpected, or widespread.

#10 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 09:26 AM:

Just wanted to happily announce that it appears that Miers has withdrawn her nomination...not that I have any high hopes of a more appropriate candidate being offered .

#11 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 09:52 AM:

Justice Michael Brown.

#12 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 10:27 AM:

Around the church groups and NGOs doing relief work here in Biloxi, Mississippi, the joke is about the FEMA salute: Face your superior, spread your arms out at the elbow, palms upward, and lift your shoulders.

It's important to remember that there's FEMA, and then there are the people who are working for FEMA on the ground. Here in Biloxi, FEMA's boots on the ground are filled by firefighters and police officers who took voluntary leaves of absence from their day jobs to do disaster relief. By and large they are good people trying to do the best that they can in a difficult situation. Much of the difficulty is caused by disarray at the top that works its way down the chain of command. FEMA workers are caught between the incompetence and misdirection at the top of the agency and the frustration and anger of the people they have come to help. This is not a recipe for effective action.

#13 ::: Barry Ragin ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 10:53 AM:

Just wanted to happily announce that it appears that Miers has withdrawn her nomination...not that I have any high hopes of a more appropriate candidate being offered .

i've noted elsewhere that Bush has described Miers as the "most qualifed" candidate for the position.

Therefore, anybody else who is nominated is less qualifed than she was.

Getting back on topic, when Hurrican Fran came through the Triangle back in September 96, we had lots of property damage in town, and widespread power outages lasting up to 7 days, but nothing life threatening for most people, at least in Durham. Other parts of the state were hit harder, and two dozen people were killed, mostly from flooding or falling trees, as i recall. We had received an above normal amount of rainfall in the previous three weeks, and the ground was already saturated.

As power came back on in different parts of town, the supermarkets would reopen and distibute ice for free, which was the most critical need for many people as temperatures climbed back into the 90s within a day or two of the storm.

FEMA didn't really take any responsibility for distributing food and water, but i don't recall there being any shortages or need. Lots of us had well stocked freezers which needed to be emptied, and the shelters were the beneficiaries of a lot of that food. FEMA did set up the claims process within a week, and that went smoothly, as i recall. We got the check for our roof repairs within a month. i can't speak to how FEMA handled things in other parts of the state nearer the coast.

#14 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 04:12 PM:

FEMA was actually an effective organization under Clinton.

#15 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 04:56 PM:

it's sad because you really don't want to say that everything is Bush's fault, it's too easy and overdone and going on for 5 years running... but then, you remember how things were under Clinton, and you can't help but think, ehy, the only thing that changed since was the President...

Same in Italy with Berlusconi.

#16 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2005, 06:27 PM:

I lived in Oklahoma City for both the OKC bombing and the May 3, 1999 tornado. I do not recall hearing about any serious issues with FEMA claims. The damage from the tornado was complete, so there was nothing to inspect.Hmm. Both those events occurred under the Clinton admin...

#17 ::: Steve Turner ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2005, 02:28 AM:

FEMA during the Clinton administration was run by James Lee Witt, an experienced and long term disaster management specialist (and I believe the first person to run FEMA who had a serious background in that area). It's not surprising that he did it well.

FEMA until very recently was run by a Bush crony who couldn't even control a horse show properly. A poor appointment led to poor results.

In many ways, Bush only had to employ competent people to get these things running properly, but instead he filled these groups with political cronys and old college buddies.

#18 ::: Sandy detects comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2005, 08:57 AM:

Spammy.

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