FEMA: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina useful now

CRAIG FUGATE
CRAIG FUGATE
FEMA Administration spokesman Craig Fugate reported to Historic City News that lessons learned in New Orleans are proving useful now — two days after the federal agency began its work in Florida. Their focus will ultimately be on the uninsured losses of storm victims; but, in the interim, FEMA is sharing resources and best practices learned during Hurricane Katrina.

For example, at 4:00 a.m. this morning, Florida Power and Light was reporting that, in St Johns County where the company provides service to 84,300 customers, only ten are currently without power. That is expected to substantially increase as the morning wears on.

“We have already activated our emergency plan and have crews ready to respond,” FPL is reporting on its website. “Once it is safe, we will assess the damage and start repairing the energy grid. We ask for your patience as we work to restore power safely and as quickly as possible.”

FEMA provides command and control as well as coordination functions between emergency management and private businesses like FPL, AT&T, Xfinity, and others who play a role in public safety. With assistance from FEMA, FPL has already staged their own linemen; supported at key locations with backup linemen from other states.

So, as Hurricane Matthew nears landfall in Florida, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is already preparing for major impacts along the east coast.

“Yesterday, President Obama declared a state of emergency, which just formalizes what we’ve been doing for the last two days,” Fugate said. “Congress made it very clear after Katrina that if we think that a disaster has occurred, or is occurring, or could occur, we can start moving resources — before the states ask.”

The declaration is the formal document that allows FEMA to turn those resources over to the states, but Fugate says it has not impeded them from moving stuff now.

The FEMA administrator also explained what the government agency’s obligations are to citizens who have their property damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

“We focus on the uninsured losses. We saw this when we were in Louisiana. We focus on what your insurance didn’t cover,” Fugate explained. “Along the coast, particularly in Florida, a lot of people have very high hurricane deductibles. We think that our role is not only going to be assisting flood victims, but also helping people who were underinsured for wind damage.”

Fugate says that FEMA will focus on coordinating with their partners at the Small Business Administration on loans, or if storm victims qualify, grants.

Fugate says he is anticipating that there could be a lot of people over the next couple of days that need assistance in rebuilding their homes.

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