Friday, September 02, 2005

“No one expected the levees to break…”

With these words, President Bush explained why the response to Hurricane Katrina was such a fiasco. Since no one expected it, no one planned for it. And since no one planned for it, when it happened, it caught everyone off guard. I don’t think the President planned to be so honest; I’m sure there will be massive spin control on this in the near future.

On Nightline last night, Ted Koppel interviewed Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, the agency supposedly in charge of Federal disaster relief. What a pathetic performance Mr. Brown displayed. His answers were as bureaucratic-speak as he could possibly make them. When he was asked why wasn’t help already in areas of New Orleans, he replied that the government was “ramping up” relief efforts. When asked why his estimates of the number of people in the Convention Center were so far off from the news reports, he replied that he had sent a “General” to ascertain the correct number and report back to him. When asked when the relief convoys would arrive, he replied that his office was “coordinating the effort” and that it would bee “soon”.

This guy should be fired, along with his management team. Instead, I predict that he’ll probably get a promotion, a raise, and a letter of commendation in his file. Look at how George Tenet, the head of the CIA, was treated. On his watch, his organization failed to detect the 9/11 plot and blew it on the WMD call for Iraq. His punishment? President Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom.

The City of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana and FEMA had decades to plan for this type of disaster (a Category 4 or 5 hurricane) and several days to plan for this particular one. And we’re supposed to be able to count on these people in case of another terrorist attack? One of the mission statements for the Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is now a part, was to be able to coordinate relief efforts in the case of National disasters. There should have been a Command and Control team on the ground within hours of Katrina passing, assessing the damage and coordinating the relief efforts. And, once the levees broke, the plan that should have been created (but probably wasn’t) to handle this should have been put into immediate effect.

I know, I know, it’s easy to second-guess and be a Monday morning quarterback. But this performance of the governmental relief agencies involved has been absolutely inexcusable. You don’t need to be a genius to come to this conclusion. It’s hard to know where to place the blame, but this situation has made me curious enough to try and find out.

I have filed a FOI (Freedom Of Information) request to the Federal Government to get a copy of the disaster plan for New Orleans. The text follows. I have been unable to find how to file an FOI request for the State of Louisiana and so have emailed a Mr. Matt Farlow; the contact given for the State of Louisiana’s Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Department, and asked him how to find this information. As I receive information (or not), I’ll post updates here…
September 2, 2005

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FOIA REQUEST

Dear FOI Officer:

Pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I request access to and copies of the Emergency Preparedness Plan or other pertinent documents stating what relief efforts would be provided by the Federal Government and how they would be provided in the case that the levees protecting the city of New Orleans were breached.

I would like to receive the information in electronic format. (CD-ROM.)

I agree to pay reasonable duplication fees for the processing of this request in an amount not to exceed $500.00. However, please notify me prior to your incurring any expenses in excess of that amount.

If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. I will also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I, of course, reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to deny a waiver of fees.

I look forward to your reply within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

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