Disaster Zone

Bureaucracy will be FEMA's Downfall

The disaster response is the easy part. Getting through the recovery paperwork is the real hurdle.

by Eric Holdeman / December 31, 2012

I always say that the disaster response is the sexy part of emergency management.  You have activated Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), media briefings, visits by dignitaries there to view the damages which is immediately followed by lots of promises to help and "we will be with you..."


They just don't say how long that is going to take and that "all the rules" need to be followed.  New Jersey and New York are going to find out real quick what Vermonters have figured out--patience is a virtue when you are waiting for recovery funding.  See Vermonters still awaiting FEMA money and this from Tropical Storm Irene, which struck people and property 16 months ago.


Plus, based on what I read some may be waiting forever for a check from FEMA.  All the "rules" have to be followed and if someone was proactive in tearing down property--no matter what the safety hazard--they could be out any FEMA recovery funding.  


Earlier today I wrote about mitigation and how we need more of it.  Buying out homes that have a history of flooding and turning the area into green space is the right thing to do.  But, the wheels of funding turn slowly and there are fiery hoops to jump through and then you wait and wait and wait.


The process and the clock becomes FEMA's enemy.  It is what will bring them down long after a disaster.  Put the information in the right hands of people who can lambast the agency, say your local Congressman, who sits on appropriations or other such committees and it will be a rough road ahead for anyone going up to Capital Hill in the coming months.  I'll give it about six months for patient people.  I don't think New Jersey or New York people are known for being patient.  Hit the one year anniversary and people will be screaming invectives about the process and FEMA.  


We'll look back fondly on how quickly FEMA positioned people, equipment and supplies for the disaster response.   There will be many a person who wishes those times would return.  Community meetings will be a place for battle and FEMA better bring some sandbags not for a flood fight, but to protect their presenters.