Thursday, September 01, 2005

My problem with FEMA

They are failing on a massive scale. Turn on CNN or FOX, people are dying inside of the superdome. I just watched a clip of a kid going through trash and looking for food. Are you kidding? This is FEMA’s purpose. FEMA is allocated millions upon millions of dollars each year to train, prepare and execute plans like this. Why are people starving? How could there be so many relief failures? Refugees need medicine, food and water. With just these basic essentials, turmoil would not take place. I completely blame the one agency that’s sole purpose is to prepare for national disasters. The violence and unrest needs to stop. The governor should call on the federal government to bring in more troops to stop this insanity. Once we evacuate the last of the refugees, we can begin rebuilding the city that we remember in our hearts.


Anonymous Natalie said...

I know that the US flew c-130's over Baghdad and dropped bags of food and water.... why can't they do it in their own country?

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree, this is insane, we cant even help our own citizens, its not like they are in some remote country. Mobilization should be ten times faster than what we have seen so far, great site Brett, i stumbled onto this site and its been my lifeline for Tulane info, for some reason it doesnt surprise me you had the motivation and the ability to put something like this together thanks man
Ben W

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm right with you brett. This is insane. Can't the federal gov't help OUR country?

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Jason Harbison said...

Never has our country needed a National Guard like we do now. And there is no telling how different the FEMA situation would be, had they had all their normal resources. Unfortunatly a majority of them..are in Iraq...

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Jonah said...

The only problem I see with FEMA is that they reacted too slowly. They should have been localizing support and relief as soon as Katrina started turning towards New Orleans. They need to be PRO-active instead of RE-active. The state also took their time with calling up the National Guard and State Police.

I must also say, we must also be understanding in a small way seeing as how this disaster is probably one of the worst in history. I don't know if anybody could have forseen this. Nonetheless, I agree with all of you.

5:22 PM  
Blogger ... jacek ... said...

Not really for now, but the City of New York askde it's architects, and egineers if they wanted to volounteer by going down to NOLA and help in gageing, planning and estableishing construction efforts. Mind you these are civilians, and at least 10 from my unit volounteered. It's amazing to me though how a city is quicker to mobilize then the feds. But then again more then 1/2 our national guard is keeping away insurgents in some fucking backass 7th world country. Absolutely amazing.

Anyways, thanks for the blogspot dude.

Alum '01

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to know what happened to FEMA? See this.

Once again, the total ineptness of the Bush administration is costing Americans dearly.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Suzanne Anderson said...

Yes, FEMA could be doing a much better job, that I will admit. However anyone who blames this problem on the Bush administration should do some research. If he/she did, they would see that the levees (construction and maintenance) fall under the state government, not the national. And I quote: "In Orleans Parish, for example, which includes the city of New Orleans, the Orleans Levee District -- a state arm -- has responsibility for management of the levees." Anyhow, regardless of all of this, FEMA could still be doing a better job. And i Defintely agree with the assertion that we should be working here in our own country before we help another.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A family friend was recently in a meeting in Minneapolis with leaders of the DEA, local police, etc. they were talking about the disaster and my friend asked if Minnesota was going to send anyone down. The response? No one had asked for any help so no one was being sent. Millions of people around the country want to do something, but the US govt and FEMA are just not asking for it or creating any uniform effort.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's very admirable what you are doing, Brett, with this post. However, you n eed to be realistic. Lets give it the best possible scenario and say Tulane can get up and running by next semester. Tulane can't house all of the students and the off campus one's housing is most likely unihabitable. Also, the city now has hundreds of thousands of residents without homes, money, etc. that are not taking it lightly. BOTTOM LINE: THE CITY IS NOT SAFE.

Also take into account the lack of grocery stores, etc. and the fact that the city is not only flooded with rainwater, but with sewage, too. It may not even be sanitary to live there.

I hope you take this into consideration.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Brett Hyman said...

I'm glad you like my blog, however I must stress that we are not being idealistic and that there is fact behind our belief in a second semester. I truly think that simply the compassion that everyone has shown via this blog will be more than enough to bring New Orleans online in the next 4-5 months. Tulane and Scott Cowen would never let it go down.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that it may seem as if the people that everyone is seeing on the news are not being helped; however, FEMA and many other organizations are doing all they can. First of all, the scale of this problem could not have been forseen. Secondly, I live in Louisiana, and we have received reports of people shooting at helicopters that are trying to drop food and water, making it impossible for them to help. These people are making themselves unable to be helped. After holding the Baton Rouge state capitol hostage, looting hospitals for medication, and stealing weapons from Wal-Mart, they have become slightly dangerous. I truly feel sorry for the displaced persons, but I also have some sympathy for our government workers and relief workers who are risking their lives to help people.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous lauren said...

i dont know if anyone saw the head of fema talking on the news, but his response to the reporter's questions of why there had been a slow to nonexistant response to this emergency was that one, he did not even realize people were at the convention center- they apparently just found that out today, when the news has been showing it for the past several days. also he said that because all these people stayed in new orleans that it makes it impossible, going on in a manner that blamed those in the city, many of who are to poor to leave. the reporter actually confronted him about his answer.
also in response to the levee's, the federal goverment denied the state additional funding for the reinforcement of the levee's and pumps back in 2001+, and even went so far as to cut back on the budge. so yeah i place some blame on the adminstration. especially when a report back in early 2000 stated that one of the largest catasrophe's this country could face was a hurricane hitting new orleans.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Daria Kester said...

It's not FEMA, it's Bush. He's the one who slashed the budgets meant to maintain the NO levee system, he who drove us into war so that he could further line the pockets of his rich friends. I think that the oil companies should be made to cough up, in order to help the refugees, many of whom still are stuck there w/ NO FOOD OR WATER. And its ridiculous that troops have to be imported from Colorado and Pennsylvania b/c the majority of the LA National Guard has been sent away. I hope that this disaster highlights the callousness and cynical greed of the Bush administration, and their gross mismanagement of our time and resources, both now and in the past. The fact that they are only now getting supplies to the trapped people is completely unacceptable, not to mention the way they bungled repairing the levees.
That said, I'm hopeful that NO will make a brilliant recovery, and rise again as a stronger and better city. For now it looks like I'm going to WashU (in MO) for the fall semester, but I can't wait to get back to Tulane! I feel as if I should be *there*, not elsewhere...

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brett, Scott Cowen does not own the city. He is a great University President - but there is nothing that he can do about the looters and all of the rioting that is bound to occur in the future in New Orleans.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of you are ridiculously idealistic. You don't realize how vast the destruction is. New Orleans didn't even get the worst part of the storm. Mobile has the worst flooding in 90 years and the eye of the hurricane hit 3 hours away from there. Thats a huge area for these people to cover. FEMA and other aid is scattered throughout this area, even all the way to Pensacola, FL. There are ENTIRE towns on the MS gulf coast that do not exist anymore. The town of Waveland is nothing but slabs of where buildings used to be, and you want EVERY resource we have to go to New Orleans. The gulf coast isn't getting the media coverage it deserves and that is why all of you people don't realize that there are other places that are in even worse shape than New Orleans and need FEMA more than they do. Certain towns, such as Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Pass Christian, and Long Beach (all is MS) don't even have reporters in there because the damage is so bad that is closed to everyone but the military. There are still reporters in New Orleans, other people besides the military are still allowed into New Orleans (i.e. reporters and the buses to get people out of the Superdome). FEMA realizes this and you do not and that is why they are concentrating on the MS gult coast even though the media isn't. I have spoken to people who have witnessed first hand the damage that the MS gulf coast suffered during Katrina and you cannot make comments about where the FEMA aid should go without hearing this information first hand. For example, Bay St. Louis is an island and all bridges and communication are completley gone from that area. So, essentially, it is helpless and the means of rescuing people are that much less. It is emotionally devastating to listen to, nevermind to see.

I'm not saying that New Orleans doesn't need help, becuase it clearly does. However, this is a time of desperation across the entire south east and our government is working to prioritize and get to everyone who needs help.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Lucius said...

I really appreciate this site, but mainly as a source of information and a forum for students to share information on how they and others may wish to deal with this crisis. I know it's presumptuous to try and tell you what your blog's purpose should and should not be, but maybe another venue could be found for the political debate. Brett, as the impressively capable organizer of this site which has become a staple source of information for Tulane students, you have a responsibility to remain neutral.

That said, you're damn right it's the fault of FEMA and the bush administration.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of you are very young, which I know you do not want to hear. But, nonetheless, it is true. You are uttering many thoughts and feelings your parents have experienced over other situations in the past. We hear you, but we also know that nothing, and I mean nothing, is as it seems in the media or in real life. The leaders of every organization, both political and non-political, have impossible, thankless roles in this situation. It is a "no win". I challenge each of you to run for, win and hold a political office in your lifetime. It is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. It is easy to say the things many of you are saying when you haven't walked a centimeter, much less a mile in their shoes. There is a reason they all have gray hair and wrinkles that were not there a year ago. We each do the best we can at the time and believe me, these leaders each take their responsibilites gravely. Please try not to be judgemental until you know all of the facts. I think you would appreciate the same courtesy. This is a wonderful site and it's wonderful to read your passion. I'm glad my daughter goes to school with you.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear president cowen,

tulane students may not care about out typically miserable football team. many probably wouldn't be aware of the fact that we have a basketball team were it not for issues of choosing a coach. we show up at baseball games because we're okay there, but the moment lsu starts beating us, we're gone. it's safe to say that there is no "school pride" where it's normally found on your standard college campus. but there is one thing that tulane students to care about and that is the city we call home.

i understand the importance of holding classes this fall. it would be a major setback for both seniors and freshmen, and an inconvenience for those of us in between. but it seems to border on uncontrolled greed to attempt to hold a fall semester given the situation of the greater new orleans area. what we face in our community is horrible. tulane university, however, seems to be in a privledged situation with an overwhelming opportunity to give back to our city.

at your disposal are possibly thousands of students who feel as i do. students who would be willing to come back to new orleans to help in any way possible. i understand that this is not feasible until conditions stabilize in the area, which may take months. but it would seem a waste of tulane's dormitories to let them sit uninhabited until the school and the city are ready for the influx of students. it would seem a waste of tulane's talented faculty and staff to leave them without work until everything is opperational. and it would seem a waste for the student body to sit around and watch a slow rebuilding effort on their televisions while they work full-time jobs or attend another school.

we care about tulane and new orleans.
tulane student

10:09 PM  
Blogger Brett Hyman said...

You are right, I am going to be completely neutral. I will not comment on any government entity that has been elected. But FEMA is not as much as a partisan issue as it is just a structural issue. the organization is flawed and we need to figure out how they can better prepare for future disasters. An attack on our nation would be completely unforseen, what would we do if we couldnt prepare? FEMA had days to prepare for Katrina and look at what's happened...

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

I'd like to dispel the notion that it's somehow 'partisan' to call it as it is.
First and foremost, it is not political to place blame when and where it is warrented. Deal with that fact. It's a fact whether or not anyone likes it.
Next, I'd like to simply point out that the situation in New Orleans is of a different nature than any other tragedy this hurricane has caused. I am aware that Hurricane Katrina has wiped some towns and communities off the map. However, houses can be rebuilt, and communities are the result of people, not locations.
New Olreans, however, is a city of half a million people. Furthermore, there is no other location in the nation that is dealing with with an incoming lake. Forget what the news media is covering at the moment. They exist to get ratings. Only New Orleans is still dealing with an active crisis that hasn't yet been dealt with.

As previously noted, FEMA has had it's budget slashed by the sitting president, and frankly, the lack of leadership and coordination is appalling. If the Department of Defense can make military plans for every country in the world simply because they might need it, why can't FEMA plan for major emergencies? Was it so hard to imagine that levees might break and then plan damage control?

I'm angry because a tragedy of chance (aka, Hurricane Katrina) led to a second tragedy due to lack of preparation and vision. Blame when it is due to whom that it's due, then identify and rectify the problems.


10:55 PM  
Anonymous Jonah lee said...

Liberal malarkey.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Steve Brady said...

While I appreciate the frustration expressed here, I cannot imagine how FEMA could have been any better positioned prior to the hurricane. Are you somehow suggesting that FEMA is able to place materials and people in the path of the Hurricane, and simply by force of federal power, convince the storm to not destroy THEIR equipment, while it ravages and devastates everything else in it's path?

President Bush declared LA a disaster area days *before* the storm hit--allowing much to be pre-positioned as best as possible. Once the storm was over, FEMA began to move.

I would ask all of you that are "arm chair quarterbacks" one simple question: "When was the last time you planned the logistics and operational efforts for a major contingency?"

Oh, and for those that think we should be airdropping food and water--we are. The US Coast Guard is doing just that, for people that are not in immediate need of airlifting out.

Please understand, the "pipeline" for moving resources to the area is quite narrow, and thus moving ANY resources into the area is going to be challenging, regardless of the organization.

4:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently you're not the only one who has expressed discontent with FEMA.

From this morning's WSJ front page:
"But a chorus of critics assailed the handling of the tragedy. 'FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans,' said Terry Ebbert, homland-security chief in New Orleans, according to the Associated Press. Mr. Ebbert, a city employee, called the federal effort'a national disgrace.'"

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

earlier post: "When was the last time you planned the logistics and operational efforts for a major contingency?"

-There's a reason that some of us are part of FEMA... and some of us are residents/students of the area that needs help. I have no doubt that it's a tough job, but IT'S THEIR JOB. Their job is to tend to this disaster, with as little life-loss as possible along the way.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Steve Brady said...

"-There's a reason that some of us are part of FEMA... and some of us are residents/students of the area that needs help. I have no doubt that it's a tough job, but IT'S THEIR JOB. Their job is to tend to this disaster, with as little life-loss as possible along the way."

Agreed. So I am not quite sure what this comment is meant to convey. It is their job. They are doing it. They are doing it quite well, actually.

My only point was--criticism is useful, when it comes from a point of knowledge, and experience. Expecting "god-like" abilities in the face of great human tragedy is NOT reasonable.

Let me address another point. It was stated that "It's amazing to me though how a city is quicker to mobilize then the feds." Well, perhaps it is amazing that one can find volunteers to go down there. But is NYC prepared to support them completely with the logistics that will be required? Where will they sleep? Will they bring enough food, and water, and tents/bedrolls/santitation supplies to support them for the duration of their stay? Will they bring enough fuel/batteries/other energy sources to power all their equipment?

Or will they arrive unannounced, and unprepared for, and wonder why they don't have the support they require?

Volunteering is easy. It just requires a will to help. Doing it is more challenging. Generals, and corporations, may despise their logisticians, but failing to adequately consider the support issues before entering into *any* operation has been the downfall of many a nation. (and many a relief effort!)

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if these wastes of lives stopped SHOOTING at FEMA, they wouldn't have to pull them out every time they try to save lives. Maybe this is Darwinism in present times?

7:46 AM  
Blogger The Professor said...

I appreciated the person posting the link to the Washington Monthly article on FEMA. Alas, it was not as useful as I had hoped, as evident by the first line entry for Jan 2001.

I am a bit disappointed though, that so little assessment was done on FEMA from the previous administration. For instance, was a "crony from Arkansas" appointed? I am sure that never happened in THAT administration....

If you are interested in my comments, go read my blog. Hey, you might enjoy it! (or not!)

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First and foremost, I'd like to say how disappointing it is to read the bipartisan bickering going on in these comments. As someoone who went to Baton Rouge, the place many people are considering the last frontier before all the damage, I saw what local officials, from the governor to the federal senators and representatives to the councilmen, were doing to help. There is no such thing as bipartisan battles going on in Louisiana right now, at least in the places I saw. So, to read the bickering and bipartisan bullshit going on here, is completely disappointing and downright petty given the tragic situation.

Also, for those of you who don't already know this: national coverage of this tragedy sucks. It's sensationalized and, at other times, completely false. I know this, because the local coverage, from people who know the area and have family there, was 500 times better. Yes, there was the local slant, and that's understandable, but there also wasn't the need to get ratings. As it was stated before I left there, Baton Rouge has become the new New Orleans, simply because so many people went there. That being said, go to or or or They're all local papers or news stations or radio stations that you can read or listen to online. Hell, even WWL in New Orleans was still broadcasting from the city last I heard. Go to them at I think they might have a better idea of what the city's like over someone who couldn't tell you the difference between Uptown and the Bywater before the storm.

Lastly, I just want to say how sick I am of hearing people say that anyone who does believe that this city will at least be semi-inhabitable in a few months is being an idealist. Why? Because these "idealists" may have faith or hope or an understanding of what military and governmental resources can actually accomplish? I wouldn't be surprised if these nay-sayers are all the same people who've already transfered to other schools to finish out their college careers, because in anything they've stated, it's showed no loyalty to Tulane or the city of New Orleans. I bet it's these people that are the ones running with their tails between their legs, showing no regard for the place that gave somewhere to party and have the time of their lives. All I have to say to that is don't put down the "idealists." Many of them have a much better understanding of the situation than you think. Maybe it's because of this understanding that they have the opinions that they do.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

To Mr. Brady,

I find your arguements to be either outright fallacious or disingenuous.
It is fairly clear (regardless of the area being rightly identified as a disaster area) that the neccessary resources were not available immediatly on demand. Frankly, they should have been. It's not hard to predict that people will need food, water, clothing, and shelter, not to mention a speedy evacuation. FEMA has to do this while rescuing the stranded and maintaining order. It's a tall order, yes, but not a surprising one.
Next, I take issue with your assumption that since we're not disaster professionals, we are unqualified to criticize.
This is bullshit.
There was a crisis to be dealt with, and it has yet to be dealt with appropriatly. I don't need to be a disaster specialist to know this. I just need eyes.

Once again: Assign blame to whom it's due, then identify and rectify the problems.


P.S.: Apparantly, I'm not the only person who thinks this way.

Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, said that the whole recovery operation had been "carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days. The rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security."

"We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm. It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane."

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FEMA has been guttted, privatized and engulfed by the Department of Homeland Security. The Bush Administration believes that private enterprise can handle a situation such as this better than the governement. The stated goal of the Conservatives in this country is to, and I quote Ralph Reed, "reduce governemnt to a size where we can drown it in a bath-tub". We're throwing money down a black hole in Iraq, giving multinational corporations welfare and cutting taxes for our country's richest 3%. We've activated 184,000 of our National Guardsmen to support Bush's oil war in Iraq. THIS is why FEMA has not acted. To make a long, stunningly inane story short, our country is extremely ill prepared for any catastrophe such as this. God help us if we're attacked with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we as the Tulane community all email our politicians - all - that this response from Washington is purely shameful. We have great concerns for and about Tualne and the students and faculty/staff. But we grieve for the poor mostly black still in animal below-third-world conditions only miles from Tulane.

3:18 PM  
Blogger TU'99 said...

I agree with most of you that FEMA could and should have done a better job in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

That said, I think FEMA is being blamed for not doing things that they were never supposed to be responsible for in the first place. FEMA clearly states that the first 72 hours of any disaster response are the responsibility of the state and local governments because of the amount of time it takes to mobilize their resources.

I believe that a large amount of blame lies with the city and state governments. I am thinking particularly of the poor evacuation and especially of the tragic circumstances found at the superdome. The city had days to make plans -- and they didn't. There could have been no question what kind danger the city was in with the example of Hurricane Camille in 1969.

So many were not evacuated because they didn't have a way to leave the city. Families are still trying to reconnect after mothers were forced to place their children on overcrowded buses and watch as they drove away. And yet pictures of the city after the hurricane showed numerous buses flooded on city streets. Why weren't these buses pressed into service to transport those people to safety? That was the city's responsibility and opportunity.

By far the worst, however, was the deplorable lack of preparation at the Superdome. The city should have had a plan in place in plenty of time to adequately supply and secure the refuge center. Knowing that the people expected there were of the poorest (and I'm sorry, but the dregs of society are included in this number) classes, the lack of security there was almost criminal in itself. Conditions were so bad that many simply left. They walked out with no food, no water, and no place to go.

I hold the city and state responsible for this failure to act. If I am wrong, please say so. I love NO, but I am very disappointed in the government.

3:01 PM  
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6:43 PM  
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11:39 AM  
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