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What the FEMA Director Learned From Watching Monty Python

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Over the weekend, Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, became the latest government figure to appear on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, the weekly National Public Radio news quiz. He was a good sport, taking part in the show’s “Not My Job” segment, in which he gamely answered a series of questions about Zima, the once-popular carbonated alcoholic beverage.

But before that, Fugate had a discussion with host Peter Sagal about movies, and the impact they’ve had on his work at FEMA. Here’s part of that exchange:

SAGAL: We have to — despite, you know, a number of disasters the last few years — maybe I'm just a child of the '70s and the disaster movies —  when I think about disasters, I think of disaster movies. Do you like disaster movies?

FUGATE: I trained on them.

SAGAL: Really? Like, which ones and what did you learn?

FUGATE: Oh, let's see “Towering Inferno," you don't want to be at the top of a burning building.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FUGATE: "Monty Python And The Holy Grail."

SAGAL: Wait a minute, "Monty Python And The Holy Grail"?

SAGAL: What did you...

FUGATE: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...the director of FEMA learn from "Monty Python And The Holy Grail”?

FUGATE: Run away! Run away!

For the uninitiated, here’s a snippet of a scene from the movie showing what Fugate was referring to:

Sagal also asked Fugate if FEMA was prepared for a potential zombie apocalypse.

“Yeah,” the administrator said, “we want everybody to download the FEMA app so we can get you instructions on what to do if there's a zombie outbreak.”

“And we don't want people trying to … if, like, the flood waters are rising to their neck, you don't want them holding up their phone and trying to download the app then,” Fugate added. “You want them to do it now … or use a selfie stick and stand up on top of high ground.”

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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