It is not often that a FEMA person can be this candid about a country’s response capabilities; in fact, about the only way to do it is to be retired! Long-time employee and long-time critic of FEMA, Leo Bosner, wrote this account recently: Can Japan Respond Better to its Next Large Disaster? [Published in japanfocus.org; no date.] In this 10 page article, he lists 10 problem areas and also offers some suggestions to the Japanese government. From his introduction:
Having worked for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for nearly thirty years, the subject of my fellowship was Japan’s response to a large-scale disaster, and whether it could be improved. Under it, I interviewed individuals who were involved in or were familiar with the response to the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster in eastern Japan and lectured on local-level disaster response planning. * * * I focused on the overall response to the earthquake/ tsunami.
First and foremost, it was clear to me that the Government of Japan simply does not have a comprehensive, realistic plan for responding to large disasters. Rather, the Japan Government’s disaster response plan seems to consist of numerous government agency plans that are unrelated to each other. In many cases these plans failed to address or even acknowledge problems that were occurring in the field. In part, this is because the government lacks trained, experienced disaster response professionals. As a result, the government’s response to the March 11 disaster was poorly managed and coordinated, and many people suffered needlessly. * * *
Note that Bosner also has some harsh words for his former employer and comments on the state of FEMA at the time of Hurricane Katrina. See Bosner’s reply in the Comments section.