Chertoff Says FEMA Was ‘Overwhelmed’ by Katrina

The headline in the Washington Post said Chertoff Says FEMA Was ‘Overwhelmed’ by Katrina and then Jack’s head burst into flames, overwhelmed by the enormity and what he perceived as government stupidity.

“Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged today that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was “overwhelmed” by Hurricane Katrina and called for a buildup of the government’s “preparedness capability” to deal with major natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Appearing before a special House committee investigating the government’s response to the hurricane, Chertoff said his department must “retool FEMA . . . so that it can fulfill its historic and critical mission supporting response and recovery.”

I am angry and appalled by this. Just reading this makes my blood boil.

“Calling Katrina “one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history,” Chertoff said it forced more than 1.5 million people to evacuate the Gulf Coast and has left an estimated 600,000 people requiring shelter.

“We now know that its [FEMA’s] capabilities were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the storm,” Chertoff told the committee.

“Although we had made significant progress in preparedness” before Katrina struck, “we were not where we needed to be,” Chertoff said. He said the agency did not have “integrated capabilities,” such as the ability to plan sufficiently with state and local agencies and the U.S. military.

The Homeland Security Department is working with federal, state and local officials to review emergency operations plans for every major American city, Chertoff said. Part of the review involves taking “a hard, realistic look” at planning for evacuations necessitated by everything from earthquakes to subway bombings, he said. He vowed to build up preparedness in the weeks and months ahead.

“It’s not something that’s going to be done overnight,” he cautioned, but “there is nothing more urgent.”

Even if 911 had never happened we never should have had to listen to our government acknowledge this kind of ineptitude, but especially in light of 911 and recent events this is just shameful and shocking. Terrible, terrible, terrible.


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  1. Stephen (aka Q) October 20, 2005 at 5:06 pm

    Yes, thanks for the recommendation, Misanthrope.

    As for the post — I can’t help wondering whether we’re prepared here in Canada. I suspect that, in the event of a major calamity, things we would be terribly disorganized.

    We would have the provinces and the federal government wrangling over who had jurisdiction, which seems to have been one of the core problems in the US response to Katrina.

  2. Jack's Shack October 19, 2005 at 8:32 pm

    I’ll have to look that up.

  3. The Misanthrope October 19, 2005 at 7:38 pm

    Jack, I have a book recommendation for you: “A Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut.

    Q, may like this very much too.

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