The nation’s top emergency planner is promising that the government has learned from past mistakes and will be prepared for the upcoming 2006 hurricane season.
R. David Paulison, acting director for the Federal Emergency Management, described the upcoming hurricane season as a “defining moment” in emergency management.
He said FEMA is building on lessons learned from last year’s hurricane season, years of emergency management experience and coordination with federal, state and local partners.
“We will be prepared for another active hurricane season in 2006,” Paulison promised. “FEMA is preparing with a renewed sense of commitment, improvement and urgency, building on lessons learned from last year’s hurricane season, years of emergency management experience, and coordination with federal, state and local partners to be ready.”
Paulison was speaking before federal, state and emergency officials in Orlando, Fla. for the April 10-14 28th National Hurricane Conference.
“Americans want to know if we are ready for future disasters and they are anxious and looking to us for reassurance, and that is reassurance we can give them,” Paulison said. “This hurricane season presents us with a tremendous opportunity; an opportunity to reaffirm the core principals of the emergency management community.”
Paulison outlined various preparations FEMA is taking, along with goals of strengthening the federal-state partnership to expedite response and hasten recovery.
He said that the response to any catastrophic disaster has to be from the ground up, starting with local citizens and their local and state governments and finally federal agencies.
“We can all agree that disaster response starts at the local level,” Paulison said. “When the local government is overwhelmed, they ask the state for support and when the state is overwhelmed, you request support from FEMA and the Federal government.
“Effective emergency management requires a team approach,” he said. “This partnership needs to include all levels of government and all disciplines of emergency management and response.”
Paulison discussed various steps FEMA is taking at the national level to retool for the upcoming hurricane season including improving logistics tracking and commodity replenishment capacity and improving coordination with other federal agencies including the Department of Defense.
He said new technologies should improve field visibility and communication interoperability. FEMA has several mobile registration intake centers and improved debris removal practices which it can deploy in the coming hurricane season.
Above all, he emphasized effective emergency management requires a team approach.
“The first response belongs in the hands of those closest to the incident, those state and local officials who are putting together the evacuation plans and shelter locations and educating their residents on when to evacuate, where to go and what to do,” Paulison explained. “It also means that individuals have the first responsibility in making their own preparations to protect their families, pets and property and should heed their local officials when evacuation orders are given.”
The hurricane conference brought together more than 2,000 federal, state and local officials, emergency managers, voluntary agency representatives, engineers, planners, meteorologists and other response, recovery and hazard mitigation professionals.
FEMA participated in a number of training sessions designed to help communities respond and recover from disasters.