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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

12 Days

Hurricane season begins in 12 days.

Great. I hope it is a quiet season. Hurricanes are a pain in the ass.

But at least there is a director of FEMA. Quietly, and without much fanfare - one David Vitter (R), a Senator from (of all places) Louisiana, sat down and shut the hell up.

Finally. Because he was holding up a very important appointment.

And there is some good news! This time around, the FEMA director is actually qualified. His name is Craig Fugate. Google it if you like. He knows emergency management. And I would know.

You see, Craig Fugate is from my home state. Florida.

Here is a sampling of what he has done to be qualified to head up FEMA.

He became a volunteer firefighter in high school, like his father and his uncle. Later attended Florida State Fire College.

After Florida State Fire College he worked as a firefighter, a paramedic (all firefighter are also paramedics - not all paramedics are fire fighters), and eventually made it all the way to the rank of lieutenant in the fire department.

He served for 10 years as Alachua County's chief of emergency management.

He served for 15 years as the assissitant director for the Florida Division Of Emergency Management.

From 2001 - very recently, he was the director of the Florida Division Of Emergency Management.

During this time (2001 - 2008) Florida had the following hurricanes:

Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Charley was a major cat 4 storm by the way.

But hurricanes were not all that happened. There were also a bunch of major fires. Here is a fire map from summer 2007.

There were also floods, tornados, and all kinds of other fun things. Oh and by the way - the above fire map was drawn BEFORE the fires peaked in number and intensity.

Needless to say, the new FEMA director knows what a disaster looks like - and how to put a handle on the response.

I will not even bother to compare Craig Fugate, President Obama's first pick for FEMA - to Joe Allbaugh, the man appointed to head FEMA in 2001. What did Allbaugh's resume look like?

He worked for Oklahoma Senator Henry Bellmon in 1974. In 1984 he worked on the Reagan campaign. Then in 1986 he worked on Bellmon's staff for his successful run for Governor of Oklahoma. He later worked as deputy secretary of transportation in Oklahoma.

In 1994 he went to work for Bush, to manage his campaign for governor. He was then the chief of staff till 1999, when Bush ran for President. He worked on the Bush campaign - then in 2001 became the number 1 man in FEMA.

Not a shred of emergency management experience.

His number 2 was "Heck of a job" Michael Brown. The horse breeder with even less emergency management experience. Brown was brought into FEMA by Allbaugh as general counsel. A lawyer. Brown was good friends from way back with both Bush and Allbaugh - so he went from someone hired to give legal opinions to the number 2 for FEMA.

I feel a lot better knowing that FEMA is back in the hands of someone who knows emergency management. The current director did good for Florida, and I think he will do good for America.

Thank you Senator Vitter, for sitting down and shutting the fuck up - allowing a qualified person to take an appointment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad that you do not know( or even care to know) the true story...where were you on 9/11????

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

I was living under a rock. What happened again?

Just so you know, one principle of emergency management is that all incidents begin and end locally. On the day in question, FEMA played a small role. The air traffic controllers and local airports got all the planes out of the air. NYC had resources to respond to the incident there. The USCG, USCG Auxiliary, many ferry boats, and even volunteer boat owners helped evacuate people. Infrastructure was largely intact - so it was easy to get additional resources in place. ICS was put into place, and unified command was set up.

But FEMA was not ready for other disasters. The directors of the agency had NO EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT experience. Period. And it showed.

I think that the difference in the current director of FEMA and the directors running the show from 2001 - after Katrina is night and day.

I have a feeling you will be unable to see that.

Blogger actonbell said...

Happy Hurricane Season--I hope it's quiet, and glad that a qualified person is at the helm of FEMA now.

BTW, someone got us a sampler pack of the Michelobs, and I agree that the Pale Ale is surprisingly good.

Blogger Fuzz said...

I'll have to try that Pale Ale.
My understanding was that, after Katrina, FEMA was greatly improved even under the previous administration. But I agree, there's no substitute for experienced leadership.

Blogger The Lazy Iguana said...

Actionbell - it is supposed to be quiet - but long range predictions are not really accurate at all.

Fuzz - After "heck of a job" Brownie was kicked to the curb, David Paulison was put in charge. He was a firefighter with a 30 year career. He was the fire chief here in Miami during Andrew in 1992. So yea, the agency improved its act. Go figure.

The Michelob Pale Ale is not bad at all. I was surprised.


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