Emergency and disaster response: Is the U.S. better at it now?

If you ask someone from Louisiana to characterize the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, you would likely receive a negative reaction

By Richard Pera
American Military University

If you ask someone from Louisiana to characterize the federal government’s response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, you would likely receive a viscerally negative reaction. Indeed, commenting on the post-Katrina response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a spokesperson for Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco uttered these now famous and often-quoted words in a New York Times article: "We wanted soldiers, helicopters, food, and water … They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart."

Fast forward seven years for a very different assessment of the federal government’s response — this time to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the New Jersey coast. During an interview on NBC’s "Today" show, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praised the federal response: "The President has been outstanding and so have the folks at FEMA."

This was a remarkable turnaround. During these intervening seven years, much work was done to implement lessons learned, including the 2006 Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act , which "significantly reorganized FEMA [and] provided it substantial new authority to remedy gaps that became apparent in response to … Katrina." Since 2009, under the leadership of Secretary Janet Napolitano, significant strides were made to improve management of emergencies and disasters, including promulgation of Presidential Policy Directive 13 (PPD-13), which details "Emergency Services" as one of 16 "Critical Infrastructure Sectors."

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About the author

In Public Safety is an American Military University (AMU) sponsored blog that features analysis and commentary on issues relating to law enforcement, emergency management, fire services and national intelligence. This blog features in-depth discussions authored by leading experts with decades of experience in their field. To stay updated on blog posts and other news relevant to these sectors, please follow us on Facebook by “liking” AMU & APUS Public Safety Programs. You can also follow us on our sector-specific Twitter accounts: @AMUPoliceEd, @AMUFireEd, @AMUDisasterEd, @AMUIntelStudies.

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