FEMA refuses Hurricane Ike funding–potential implications for effective preparation

May 8, 2009

I will admit that I do not know exactly what is going on between FEMA and the state of Texas. But as Gov. Perry’s strongly worded press release about FEMA’s refusal to fund Hurricane Ike costs in Texas indicates, this suggests that funding is for those who are poorly prepared and respond inadequately to major disasters.

I have commented quite often to local and state agencies about FEMA’s potential role in a major regional disaster. I pointed to Katrina response and Ike response as indicators of what FEMA would do. FEMA was forced into a front a center role by very inadequate response on the part of municipal, regional and state responders during Hurricane Katrina. In Ike, the situation was very different and FEMA was in the background offering help and support but allowing the agencies to do their work which they did extremely well. This is what FEMA was created for and how (in my mind it should work). I used it as an example to show that by getting your act together the agency can continue to provide leadership in the response and count on FEMA’s support.

If I am reading this right, I am wrong. FEMA will fund those, it appears, who demonstrate lack of preparation and lack of effective response. If you are prepared and you do a good job, you will bear the whole cost yourself. I repeat, this is what it looks like from an outsider. I hope I am wrong. But if I am right (and FEMA, if you are reading this, please clear this up for me), then it seems the advice to response agencies needs to change. It would need to be that if you want and need to secure federal funding–don’t be too good at what you do. What a dreadful message.

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