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FEMA's Craig Fugate on disaster management

By Ed O'Keefe

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate appears on the latest episode of "On Leadership" with The Post's business columnist Steven Pearlstein to discuss his take on the problem with "government-centric" response to disasters.

Pearlstein asked Fugate to elaborate on why he thinks government doesn't have all of the solutions to disaster response:

Well let me ask you, who provides grocery everyday in your community? It's not government, right? Why would you expect government to have all the solutions in the aftermath of a disaster when the private sector has spent decades building and refining and having supply chains that exist that government does not have. That we are somehow going to come in there and in less than 72 hours recreate that kind of an environment and be successful. Particularly when you look in at what industry does to get their stores open, to get their supply chains open. We actually end up competing with them. So I step back.
And this came out of some of the situation that I found in Florida during the hurricanes, where we were so focused on what government was going to do that government had to get in there with food, government had to get in there with water, government had to get in there with supplies and we hand them out to people, that we really weren't paying attention to the private sector, the retail sector, which was actually doing something very similar to get their stores open and actually getting open faster than we'd ever seen them before to the point where we literally found ourselves handing out free water and food in the parking lots of open grocery stores in a community that had no power. The grocery store had a generator and was bringing in extra supplies and crews to get their stores open. And we were totally oblivious to it because we were so focused on what government was going to do, versus what else out there as part of a community is also going to be working?
And so take a different approach. What we're going to do is go back to the retail sector and say, 'What can I do to get you open? And where are you not going to be able to get open?' And that's where I'm really going to focus. And that's what I'm saying, get out of the government-centric thing and thinking we have all the solutions.

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(Video by The Post's Elizabeth Tenty, Vanessa Mizell and Andrea Useem)

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 3, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Video Report  
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People are responsible for their own preparedness and recovery. Government can provide the education, information and training to the public so that they can become better prepared. This includes business and industry that have experienced firsthand the effects of not being prepared, and lost hundreds of millions in revenue, or their entire customer base because it took too long for them to recover and reopen.

Far too many people over the past three decades have become complacent and feel that they are entitled to services because they were affected or because they pay taxes.

We must reinstate the mindset back during the cold war, where all Americans had to be prepared to support themselves. Government will never be large enough to support all persons affected, nor should there be a public or elected officials expectation for them to do so. People are responsible for their own recovery.

Even in tough economic times, having the knowledge to carefully listen to emergency information and instructions, learn skills to sustain an event, and develop a plan to begin their own recovery process does not cost money, just time. Putting essential items together as a kit is simply a treasure hunt around their house. Most people already have these resources on hand.

The government facilitates the process by which persons affected by events can begin their own road to recovery, and the public should not solely depend upon government for their total solution. If they do, they will never fully recover from their situation; any psychology major will tell you that.

Posted by: Richard3697 | February 3, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

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