David vs. Goliath

I can only hope that the next President would appoint qualified leaders at the U.S. Fire Administration that "want to do something, not be somebody."

Take a look at the orderly evacuation of two million people, and then tell me that it was luck and not preparedness. Take a look at the command and control, on where and how well FEMA staged, took command, and coordinated the complex federal and local state governments' response to this disaster. Take a look at how well the local government's decision to deploy the national guards, provided for the order and the security of the cities. Take a look at the support efforts in mobilization, staging, logistics, and the supply of the much needed resources.

Long story short, just take a global look, and then decide how you would evaluate the incident commander's Herculean efforts in response to this particular natural disaster. If you call it sheer luck, then Hanna, Ike, Josephine and the others in this year's hurricane season could better prove FEMA's revival and preparedness.

In an article titled "Paulison Works to Change FEMA's Image" posted on the Firehouse.com, Paulison's confidence in his organization's preparedness to respond to the upcoming challenges is quite evident.

"Paulison is banking on the fact that changes he's made at FEMA, and lessons learned from Katrina's mistakes, will help begin restoring the agency's reputation. After offering reporters a list of steps taken to prepare the storm's pounding, Paulison said he believes FEMA has done its job this time. "I told you before, that we were going to be ready for this storm," he said. "I think we are showing that we are ready for this storm. I can't stop the damage from happening, and we can't stop the storm from coming in. What we can do is be as ready as possible, making sure we're ready, the states are ready, and the local communities are ready."

I think that David has accomplished his goal and has defeated Goliath. FEMA is now better prepared in responding to such natural disasters of significant magnitude.

David is not receiving the accolades that he well deserves from the national media. But as we all know, the news media's focus is more on the failures rather than successes. And I am sure that David much prefers to be out of the limelight, rather than to receive the same amount of attention that Mike Brown did. Great job David for your triumphal efforts in reviving the FEMA, and enabling it to perform the responsibilities demanded of it by our public.

David has proved that strong leadership can indeed transform organizational failure into success. David has revived FEMA. Now, I am sure that similar intense focus and determination could also yield positive results in addressing our country's fire problem. This is yet another Herculean task which is the direct responsibility of the USFA, and thus FEMA.

What brought about the change in FEMA was the Congressional investigation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that resulted in 1,836 deaths and $81.2 billion damage. But my friends, every single year in America, fire fatalities are more than twice the number of Katrina's fatalities, and the total national cost of fire is more than three times that of Katrina's damage! Yes, that is every single year.

Yet, you don't see any Congressional investigation, do you? Why? Because Katrina was a single large disaster with significant economic impact; yet nationally we have 1.6 million fires every year, most of which don't even make the local news.

Our public does not know the true magnitude of the fire problem in our country. As a result, to most of our politicians and the decision makers, "the trees are blocking their view of the forest", and they view fire as a small local issue, and not national.

The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) report title "The Total Cost of Fire in United States", published on February 2008, indicates that "for 2005, the total cost is estimated at $267-294 billion, or roughly 2 to 2 1/2 % of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP)."

During the next couple of months before this year's presidential election, we all will repeatedly hear about the cost of war in Iraq being $10 billion a month. But most people do not know, that based on the NFPA's fire statistic mentioned above, our current total annual cost of fire is about $24.5 billion a month. That is more than twice the monthly cost of the war in Iraq! Isn't it our patriotic duty to address this problem that is a burden to our national economy?