Friday, February 10, 2006


Cost of Katrina Response

The inept FEMA response seems to be the focus of news right now. I would like to invite people to consider what the cost of the poor response truly was.

How many of the victims were killed or seriously injured after the storm due to inadequate response? How many simply could not have been prevented by faster disaster relief? How much faster could we have actually been? How much more property could have been saved?

I believe the biggest cost of poor performance of FEMA will end-up being that it opened the door to poorly managed reconstruction efforts.

Aaron --

I don't think anybody in the richest country in the world should have to live like those Katrina victims did.

I don't think any American should have to wonder if their government has forgotten/abandoned them.

I don't think that all Americans should ever have to worry that their government is incompetent to handle its basic responsibilities.

That's the cost of the Katrina response -- the blow to our national self-esteem and the loss of confidence in our government.

If I remember correctly, you mentioned at one point that you were military. What is the cost in lives or injuries of not going back to Vietnam to make sure we've got all of our POW/MIA brought home? Pretty small. But the costs in other areas (like the ones I mention here) would be huge. That's why we do it, and that's why the FEMA failure was such a big deal.
I'd consider that a benefit. Without the blow to our self-estem, the problem and others like it would get worse.
It only works as a benefit if it was inevitable for FEMA to act poorly.

I don't see why that need be the case. FEMA was a very effective agency once it was reformed in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. It receieved praise for its work on and after 9/11.

The decision to put idiots in charge and to de-emphasize FEMA's mission led to that awful week. The same people who made them are still running the country. I think it's sad, and I think it may very well still be getting worse.
I'm not so sure FEMA performed much more poorly than it has in the past.
Well, I'm not sure that there's anything that I could say that would convince you otherwise, but you certainly didn't see this kind of incompetence in response to the flooding of the Missouri in 1993, the Northridge earthquake of 1994, or Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Are we comparing apples to apples here?
No they're not apples, but it should be instructive enough. In many ways, the Northridge earthquake and Hurricane Floyd were more difficult because they didn't come with several days of warning. (Floyd's damage was in the massive flooding caused by rain when it stalled out over land).

In those cases, the lines of communication stayed open. In those cases, FEMA successfully called upon military help. In those cases, FEMA was able to use smartly pre-positioned supplies. In those cases, FEMA was able to find people to fully staff the call centers ...

I could go on but it would be pointless.

In the 1990s, FEMA employees regularly reported near the top levels of job satisfaction in the federal government. By the time of the surveys before Katrina, it was dead last.

In the 1990s, FEMA was led by Arkansas' former head of emergency management. By the time of Katrina, it was led by a former show horse association president. It's not surprising that its performance suffered. In fact, it would probably be more surprising if Michael Brown had been able to maintain its previous level of success.
Those are valid criticisms.
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