With the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season slightly more than a month away, R. David Paulison, interim director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said the bedraggled agency would be ready. For the sake of Floridians and Gulf Coast residents, it is hopeful that he is right.
Paulison became interim director after taking over for former director Michael Brown – who was the subject of much criticism after his handling of Hurricane Katrina – in September. Earlier this month, President George W. Bush nominated him to become FEMA director permanently.
In preparation for the coming season, Paulison has been trying to get FEMA fully staffed, talking with local emergency management directors and stressing the importance of individual responsibility when it comes to disaster preparedness.
“We have to be prepared, and it starts at the very basic level of individuals to be prepared,” Paulison said to emergency service workers. “And we’re going to have to teach them that, because we’re obviously not doing a very good job.”
This is a good point that many people seem to forget in the midst of finger-pointing – the government can teach people how to prepare for a storm, but it all boils down to individual responsibility when taking steps to ensure safety. Individuals have to buy their own supply of bottled water and non-perishable food, and after paying careful attention to the news and weather reports, individuals need to take the proper steps to evacuate.
The question of whether to evacuate will be made much easier this season, as well. When it comes to evacuation, no matter what the strength of the hurricane, FEMA wants people to just do it.
“We have probably 94,000 travel trailers out there with families in them spread across three states, and these people have to be evacuated during even a Category 1 hurricane,” Paulison said in a CNN.com article.
In storm-ravaged areas such as New Orleans, no last-resort shelters will be available. Instead, FEMA is looking into making a wide variety of transportation methods available to get people out of harm’s way.
This may seem to be an outrageous move, but it is an essential one if those living in vulnerable homes are to stay safe. FEMA as a whole may still be getting back on its feet after much public scrutiny. However, while FEMA may be to blame for certain tasks, such as incorrectly dispersing aid money – the agency is asking 625 people in Texas for a total of $1.26 million back in wrongly dispersed funds – it is not to blame if people do not adequately prepare in the face of a threatening storm.