FEMA chief details preparations for hurricane season

Acknowledging numerous problems with the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director R. David Paulison on Monday described a beefed-up organization that he said would be better able to respond swiftly to the needs of disaster victims during this year's hurricane season.

"FEMA has got to be a more agile, a more flexible organization than it has been in the past, and that's what we wanted to do," Paulison said during a briefing for reporters in Miami.

A key aspect of the improvement has been an effort to increase the supplies available for victims -- and FEMA's ability to deliver them. Paulison said that while FEMA had enough equipment on hand during Katrina, it was not in the right position to be useful.

"What we've gone out and done is purchased a tremendous amount of supplies," he said. For example, according to a White House document, the Homeland Security Department, which includes FEMA, now has 770 truckloads of MREs compared to 180 before Katrina struck. Each truckload serves 10,000 people per day.

FEMA has also vastly increased its supplies of water and ice and doubled its pre-Katrina staff of disaster assistance employees from approximately 4,000 to about 8,000.

FEMA has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Defense Logistics Agency, which will serve as a "backup" to help move supplies, according to Paulison. He said FEMA has improved its ability to track the movement of supplies, noting that some tractor trailers failed to reach their intended destinations during Katrina.

FEMA has purchased satellite equipment to enable it to have better "situational awareness," according to Paulison, who said the agency had to rely on media reports for some of its information during Katrina. FEMA has also improved its ability to register and locate evacuees, Paulison said.

"All 50 states had people that came out of Katrina," Paulison said. "We didn't know where they were, we didn't know who they were, and we didn't know what their needs were."

FEMA also has sought to streamline the debris removal process, allowing localities to select from debris removal companies listed on the FEMA Web site. "We want to give the local communities as much flexibility as possible as we go through this next storm time," Paulison said.

Paulison said there was abuse and fraud surrounding the FEMA post-Katrina initiative to provide victims with $2,000 of assistance. This time, FEMA has hired an identity verification company to check people's identities and ensure that they are from the disaster zone.

An initial payment of $500 instead of $2,000 will be made to families who "hopefully will be back in their homes within a couple of days," Paulison said. But he added, "If we have to go back and do more, then we can go back and do more."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.