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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."

Full story: Visit the In Public Safety blog

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