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FEMA gets ahead of a (potential political) storm

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

With Hurricane Earl now fast approaching, here's a good example of how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is getting out in front of storms of a physical, political and PR nature:

The agency circulated a memo Tuesday reminding reporters that only local and state governments can issue evacuation orders to communities at risk of storm damage.

The memo's release was prompted by a Tuesday conference call with reporters, during which FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was pushed repeatedly to explain and clarify why evacuations orders had not been issued for the East Coast, especially North Carolina.

"Evacuation Decisions and Orders are not made by FEMA, these Decisions and Orders come from State, Local and Tribal Governments, who have primary responsibility and authority for evacuation planning, transportation, sheltering, and public safety," the memo states.

"In general, under state laws, governors have the authority to prescribe evacuation routes, transportation modes, and destinations, control entry and exit to a disaster area and the occupancy of premises in a disaster area, and order, direct, compel or recommend an evacuation," according to the memo. "In some states this authority rests at the local level."

Chalk this up to another example of how FEMA is trying to avoid its past mistakes. The last thing FEMA wants to see in the coming hours are TV reporters standing on wind-whipped beaches wrongly asking why the federal government hasn't ordered evacuations when they should be asking state and local governments instead. (Frequent TV appearances by Fugate in the coming days should also help clarify the chain of command.)

More from the memo:

-- FEMA and its federal partners support state, local and tribal governments in their evacuation plans and do everything we can to urge people to follow their local evacuation orders if and when given by state, local, and tribal leaders.
-- Because evacuation orders are determined at the state and local level, evacuations will vary from state to state. Evacuation orders may vary in timing from community to community based on the location, size and transportation route options and limitations in a given community.

Is this a good move by FEMA? Or could it just confuse things more?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | September 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Too bad FEMA's temporary housing program is still a disaster.

Posted by: nuke41 | September 1, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Still can't repress that urge to slam FEMA even as you report how the Agency is trying to send a clear message, can you? You end your piece with "Is this a good move by FEMA? Or could it just confuse things more?" a back-hander if I've ever read one.
It happens to be the truth, and a clarification. What would you have the Agency do?

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Posted by: itkonlyyou259 | September 1, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

If it's going to confuse anyone, it'll only be those sections of the media that didn't understand the sequence to begin with.

Now they might actually have to do real reporting for once :P

Posted by: Moonwolf | September 1, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Unless Obama's FEMA is wrong, or being deliberately deceitful, doesn't this prove that the stupid actions by the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans were wholly responsible for the unnecessary death and injury during Katrina????

Does this not let BUSH off the hook?? Especially since, although Bush DID try to warn these people how dangerous Katrina was becoming days before she hit; Sheik Obama hasn't even commented!!!


Posted by: RDog1 | September 1, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

because bush hates black people, stupid teabagger

Posted by: jiji1 | September 1, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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