FEMA outlines La. failures
Agency testifies local officials failed to follow plans
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
WASHINGTON -- Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinators
acknowledged before a congressional committee Thursday that they were overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina but blamed New Orleans and Louisiana officials for failing to implement an emergency response plan.
The situation was so haphazard that New Orleans failed to identify
shelters in advance where hurricane victims could go.
"It's the responsibility of the local authority to evacuate their people
and set up shelters," said Philip Parr, who coordinated FEMA's response
the Superdome. "I found that there was little preparation."
Parr was one of three FEMA officials who testified Thursday before the
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Scott Wells, FEMA's federal coordinating officer in Baton Rouge, agreed
with Parr's assessment. The initial emergency responsibility lies with
local government, followed by the state government, then federal
At one point, Louisiana State Police turned away two FEMA trucks with
water, ice and meals from the Superdome, Wells said.
"The system works well for small disasters," Wells said. "It falls apart
for catastrophic disasters."
Part of the problem was the city's and state's lack of knowledge about
national response plan and FEMA's role, Parr said. Requests the city
to the agency included patrol cars, guns and bullets, an air conditioner
for a city office, and a taxi to transport a resident to the hospital.
"We got hundreds and hundreds of requests in addition to valid
Parr said. "This is just a lack of understanding of what FEMA does."
Parr contrasted Texas' emergency plan to that of Louisiana's. Before
Hurricane Rita, Texas implemented its emergency plan, moving 13,000
patients at one point.
"In the state of Texas, they had plans," Parr said. "We didn't have that
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin could not be reached for comment on
Messages left at his office were not returned.
Denise Bottcher, spokeswoman for Gov. Kathleen Blanco, disputed FEMA's
claims that the state was unprepared.
"We were at the ready with boats and helicopters, but we didn't have
enough," Bottcher said. "And we asked early and often for resources."
Blanco hopes to set the record straight next week when she appears
Congress to discuss the state's emergency preparedness plan, Bottcher
"I think it's well established that Katrina outgunned the system,"
said. She said the state was able to evacuate 1 million people and
tens of thousands.
The Louisiana operation turned frustrating, Wells said, when
between the Baton Rouge emergency operations center and New Orleans
"We were told the lines were saturated," Wells said. "Nobody could call
into Baton Rouge and we couldn't call out."
E-mails released by the committee show a panicked Blanco staff. At one
point, FEMA officials told the staff it couldn't perform functions
officially asked by the governor.
"The (Louisiana federal) delegation is calling FEMA because they are
getting (calls) from constituents," Stephanie Leger, the state's
lobbyist, wrote to Blanco's then chief of staff, Andy Kopplin, four days
after the storm hit. "They are being told that (FEMA) can't do a thing
until the governor asks them to do it."
Leger said Thursday that the e-mail resulted from confusion between FEMA
ground workers issuing the response and the agency's leadership.
Another e-mail indicates that Blanco was taking a nap the day before the
hurricane hit when U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff
trying to reach her.
"I think she's asleep now," wrote Roderick Hawkins, Blanco's deputy
Bottcher said on Thursday that Blanco worked throughout the day, which
began at 4 a.m. She said that Hawkins made a wrong assumption because
couldn't be located by Louisiana State Police.
"She didn't nap," Bottcher said. "It's not uncommon for State Police to
be able to find her."
Parr also told the panel that he had plans to airlift evacuees out of
Superdome that were delayed a day because Lt. Gen. Russel Honore took
Honore ordered previous plans be put on hold until he could get a handle
the situation, Parr said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, committee chairwoman, pointed out the
in command caused evacuees to spend at least one more night in the
"Thousands of people in the general population of the Superdome had to
spend another hot, dangerous night?" Collins asked.
"That's correct," Parr said.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., suggested that the federal
have more of a role in emergency response plan oversight in the states.
"In Katrina, this system broke down," Collins said. "And the result was
very deprivation and suffering this structure was designed to avoid.
"The system must be fixed, from the bottom to the very top."
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Results 1 to 11 of 11
12-09-2005, 01:04 PM #1
FEMA Outlines Louisiana FailturesOUTSTANDING
Make It Happen
Never forget 9-11-2001
343 Brothers Who Were MURDERED!!
12-09-2005, 07:24 PM #2
Originally Posted by allineedisuChief Dwayne LeBlanc
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
"I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
— C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"
12-09-2005, 10:58 PM #3
FEMA is the last group to be pointing fingers at anyone.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
12-10-2005, 11:09 AM #4
No kidding. This is damage control. Nothing more.Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."
12-12-2005, 01:09 PM #5
Or finally, after much finger pointing, all relevant parties can testify before the Congressional Committee of their actions and corrective measures can be made and implemented.Fortune does not change men; it unmasks them.
The grass ain't greener, the wine ain't sweeter!! Either side of the hill.
12-25-2005, 01:53 AM #6Originally Posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
The local screwed up and are blaming FEMA. FEMA might not be perfect, but it's the locals who deserve to be crucified for their incompetance.If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!
12-25-2005, 10:36 PM #7
Thanks for your opinion Parasite. You are right. FEMA did and continues to do a fine job in the Gulf Coast
Hurricane-Ravaged Rescue Stations Still Struggling
SUSAN NICOL KYLE
"A FEMA official who can make a decision - that's what we want in our Christmas stocking."
That's what the Harrison County, Miss. fire marshal said is at the top of Gulf coast firefighters' Christmas list.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
12-25-2005, 10:41 PM #8
P.S. Parasite. I certainly didnt applaud the local Louisiana response. However, if you dont think that FEMA screwed up their big chance to do what they were supposed to, you are seriously delusional.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
12-26-2005, 03:35 PM #9Originally Posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
Did FEMA do some stupid things? like the whole FF teams that were acting like PR guys? yeah. But most of the crap that keeps getting blamed on FEMA is actually caused by the stupidity of the local government.If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!
12-27-2005, 10:28 AM #10
Wrongo Parasite. I AM "Joe Citizen" ...who also happens to be a firefighter. I stand by my assertation that FEMA dosen't need to be pointing fingers at anyone.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
12-27-2005, 07:58 PM #11
Originally Posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
- Join Date
- May 2005
FEMA should be pointing fingers - as some finger pointing should be directed at FEMA. The problem FEMA faced is that they had to pick up operations they were expecting be taken care of already or at least expecting a plan to drafted on how some of those emergency opertaions were going to be handled.
We need to know where the system failed - it just wasnt FEMA. We cant expect to not repeat this mistake unless some finger pointing takes place.
If you arrive at a Fireground as 2nd or 3rd due to expect certain things to have happened already - if they havent and you are expected to do those tasks also - things may not go so smoothly.Warm Regards,
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