Deficiencies at FL Div. of EM Prior to H. Irma

We have been hearing many accounts of the problems in Puerto Rico, but the deficiencies  noted by an audit of the FL State Div. of Emergency Management are a surprise. FL has been considered one of the better prepared states.

From the Miami Herald, this account of the FL Office of Emergency Management.
Audit warned Florida’s hurricane response system was ‘ill-prepared’ for disaster

The next question is does FEMA know what the capabilities of the state and territorial EM offices are?

 

Heated Discussion at Congressional Hearing on Baton Rouge Flooding

Louisiana flood response blasted by Congress after state, FEMA ‘fell on its face,’ lawmaker says.

Tension over Louisiana’s recovery from last year’s catastrophic floods became the focus of a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with Republican congressmen repeatedly taking aim at Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The committee chairman from Utah asked Edwards if he was “clueless;” a representative from Georgia repeatedly asked Edwards why he didn’t call for an evacuation ahead of the floods; a North Carolina congressman demanded more information about the state’s process of finding an administrator to oversee upcoming housing recovery programs.

The hearing was billed as a deep-dive into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the floods nearly eight months into the recovery process, but most of the heat came down on the state.

FEMA Wants States to Pay More

FEMA’s Plan to Make States Pay More for Disasters. It’s one of the many ideas and practices that Craig Fugate, the agency’s outgoing leader, hopes the Trump administration will adopt. Among the others: rescuing pets.”   [Thanks to Ed Thomas for this citation.]

This concept is not new. The Diva recalls writing about the need for more state investment in preparedness for disasters back in 1993, when the topic was included in the milestone report Coping with Catastrophe, issued by the National Academy of Public Administration

Update: another take, this one from Bloomberg News, on the same topic.

Post-Sandy Recovery in NY and NJ Criticized

I cannot verify the claims of this article, because it would take a great deal of on-site investigation that I am unable to do.  I have in fact talked to government officials, such as congressional committee, GAO, and CRS staffers about the need for a full scale evaluation of the large federal investment in H.Sandy recovery.

The other important aspect of this story is the interaction with and handoff to states by the federal government in the long-term recovery period.  This too needs to be studied and case example documented.

See this article: 18 months after Sandy, FEMA aid ends without states stepping up.  Some excerpts:

A year and a half after Hurricane Sandy hit the New York metropolitan area, destroying tens of thousands of homes, Barbara Vahey is stuck between a rock and a hard place. More specifically, she’s stuck in a funding gap between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the bureaucratic black hole of local housing recovery programs.

Vahey isn’t alone. She’s one of 1,300 New York and New Jersey families who until May 1 had been relying on FEMA rental assistance to get them through the last 18 months as they rebuilt their houses or found alternative living arrangements.

In theory, those 18 months should have been enough — FEMA’s programs are designed to hold people over until state- and city-level programs kick in. But housing advocates say that New York’s and New Jersey’s programs have been poorly managed and mired in red tape, leaving people like Vahey without enough money to rebuild their own houses or find a new one.

 

Federalism at work – for better or for worse

Some days you just have to wonder about our federal system and how ponderous it can be when it comes to serving its citizens after a disaster. This story highlights the role of NJ state government in its role as recipient of a presidential disaster declaration and the federal funds that flow from it.  In my view, the victims of  Superstorm Sandy, not to mention the general public, might expect a quicker pace from state government. Superstorm Sandy occurred in October 2012, yet this article is dated April 21.

$1.8B in post-Sandy federal grants might not reach homeowners until July

Victims of Hurricane Sandy, expecting federal grants of up to $150,000 to help them rebuild their battered homes, will have to wait until summer before they see any money, the governor said Thursday.

Gov. Chris Christie said he hopes the federal government next week approves the nearly $1.8 billion earmarked for a massive New Jersey rebuilding program. Some $600 million of that will be reserved for homeowners to repair and elevate their houses.

But that money might not reach homeowners until July, Christie said in Long Branch Thursday.

Richard Constable, commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, said earlier this week his department still has to build the framework for administering the funds. And Christie said the application process for homeowners will require environmental approvals.

Business owners, meanwhile, may get grants sooner, Christie said. Nearly $500 million of the $1.8 billion fund would go to small-business grants, community revitalization programs and a tourism marketing campaign.

“The business side will happen much more quickly because the application process on the business side is much easier ….

Deficiencies in Recovery Capabilities Noted in New National Report

Seal of the United States Department of Homela...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recently issued National Preparedness Report found that of the 31 core capabilities identified, the lowest rating went to cybersecurity. (This topic received most of the media attention n the past week or so.) But the next three lowest rankings up from the bottom are all recovery-focused core capabilities. On page ii, it noted that these are “national areas for improvement.

“ The next to lowest capabilities are:  (1) economic recovery, (2) natural and cultural resources, and (3) housing.

The report also that says state response capabilities are strong, based in part on the self-assessment done by the states. Too bad we cannot find a better means of measuring that important element of recovery capability, because that assessment is questionable.

I have been studying recovery for almost thirty years, and I remain baffled and chagrined about the very limited progress that has been made. Apparently, the political will to deal with recovery is missing.


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