Did FEMA Learn Its Lesson From Hurricane Irene
A few years ago, the United States discovered the devastating effects of a hurricane, when they suffered from the most costly natural disaster of history, Hurricane Katrina, due mainly to a lack of preparation. Ironically it was one of America's founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", and however it is safe to say that the United States has learned from its lesson about the proper and necessary preparation when in the path of an impending hurricane. Recently in 2011, after Hurricane Irene, many people are concerned if FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) did a good job preparing for Irene as well as helping with the recovery after Irene as noted by an article in Federal Computer Week. This brings us to the question, "In the wake of Irene, is it safe to say that FEMA has learned its lesson? The answer to this question is absolutely yes, as FEMA has improved its preparation techniques, employed a more professional group of personnel and found a group of competent leaders and directors.
As stated before, lack of preparation played an enormous role in this disaster. The Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina asserted that the readiness of FEMA's national emergency response teams was inadequate as well as FEMA's ability to provide emergency shelter and temporary housing. Particularly in New Orleans, lack of public transportation as well as the late emergency evacuation order caused many people to be stranded during without food and water after the storm. However in clear contrast to Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA heavily prepared for Irene. It deployed teams and resources along the East Coast from South Carolina to Maine and contacted the Red Cross in order to construct emergency shelters along the East Coast up through New England and ordered local officials to announce evacuations along the coast. They also worked with The Department of Health and Human to Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to set up 3 staging areas along the coast. FEMA clearly learned the necessities of preparing for a hurricane and have removed many other flaws of the agency which help preparation for natural disasters.
FEMA has also improved the quality as well as the number of professionally trained staff and emergency response team. During the inspection of FEMA's response of Hurricane Katrina, many government officials noted with distaste the lacked adequate trained and experienced staff for the Katrina response. As quoted by the Investigation Committee "for years emergency management professionals have been warning that FEMA's preparedness has eroded. Many believe this erosion is a result of the separation of the preparedness function from FEMA, the drain of long-term professional staff along with their institutional knowledge and expertise, and the inadequate readiness of FEMA's national emergency response teams. The combination of these staffing, training, and organizational structures made FEMA's inadequate performance in the face of a disaster the size of Katrina all but inevitable. However after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has increased the number of employees to the FEMA's roster including the number of Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) and Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS). But although the both the number of quality and quality of the FEMA's roster has increased, they are not nearly as effective without strong leaders.
Finally, the leadership and communication of the FEMA has improved drastically from Katrina. During and after Hurricane Katrina director of FEMA, Michael D. Brown was criticized constantly over his handling of the operation. He caused considerable confusion when he chooses the Principal Federal Official. Brown was also the main cause for the FEMA's slow response time which was also heavily denounced. The communication between state officials and national government officials was poor which as stated by George Haddow, who served as the deputy chief of staff at FEMA under Bill Clinton are a direct consequence of the Bush administration's decision to pull the federal government out of the natural disaster-relief business and turn over more power to state and local officials. However Obama has reversed these changes during his presidency and even personally asked if the FEMA needed help during the Hurricane Irene Crisis.
In conclusion the FEMA has learned its lesson from Katrina as shown by the enhanced preparation execution, constructing a more efficient agency by hiring better quality employees, and insuring that the leaders of the agency as well as the communication with other government officials is strong.