- From the WashPost: FEMA admits failures in Puerto Rico disaster response, in after-action report.
- From the NY Times: FEMA Was Sorely Unprepared for Puerto Rico Hurricane, Report Says
- Direct link to 65-page After Action Report.
Update on July 14: Editorial in the NYTimes: FEMA Admits It Failed Puerto Rico. Can It Do Any Better? The agency’s disorganization and a lack of supplies and personnel contributed to the havoc.
2017 was quite the year for FEMA …. An estimated 265 billion in damages and more registered disaster victims then the previous 10 years combined. Wow …. while not a fan of FEMA, you must give them credit as they held their own and then some. Brock Long and his team performed well considering the organization they inherited (especially the reservists program) along with the historic severity of the hurricanes and wildfires in 2017.
One of the first things they teach you in emergency management is that all emergencies are local. If FEMA is acting as a first responder in your community, like they did in Puerto Rico, then most likely it is a safe bet that the local government has failed it’s residents during a time of need. A core function of government is public safety and when they fail during a time of crisis to perform the most basic of their mission, then hard questions must be asked of them and not FEMA. FEMA is not the local police or public works department, health agency or communication or power company.
No real discussion in these articles of how the inefficient and corrupt government of Puerto Rico failed it’s residents and frankly adversely impacted the relief efforts of FEMA and other organizations. It is starting to appear that some Puerto Rico officials held back recovery efforts for personal benefit and gain. Some arrest have been made and other investigations are ongoing.
Finally, in response to Mr. Bosner’s global question of whether FEMA placed all resources on the island in response to the storm … my answer would be yes, what little they had left. Would you expect anything less from a person like Brock Long than maximum effort even under the difficult of circumstances?
I think the FEMA report is remarkable candid about what did and did not go well. A few weeks back I did a posting titled In Defense of FEMA. There is a lot of blame and it should be shared by many organizations.
When I went to the Virgin Islands as part of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, the place was swarming with Federal responders, but not all of them were from FEMA. Most of them seemed to be from Federal agencies that FEMA had mission-assigned to assist on the response. But when I scanned the FEMA Puerto Rico AAR for the term “mission assign,” I only found a few passing mentions of the term. Did FEMA make full use of its mission assignment authority to mobilize government-wide resources to Puerto Rico? Maybe it did, but I haven’t seen much mention of that in any of the reports so far.