The United States is ready for the next Hurricane Katrina according to Admiral Thad Allen, the former director of the FEMA response effort in New Orleans. In an article put out by Bloomberg, Allen was quoted saying “there is nothing right now that inhibits an effective response.” However others seem to disagree. Craig Fugate, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, and Heritage’s Dr. James Carafano see that more still needs to be done. Policies and procedures still need to be reassessed and improved, plus Congressional meddling and their practices for allocating funding are anything but helping.
Nevertheless, response to the 2007 wildfires in California has repeatedly been cited as proof that Allen is right, that we are ready for the next major disaster. However a recent Heritage Backgrounder, The Local Role in Disaster Response: Lessons from Katrina and the California Wildfires, tries to dispel this misconception. The truth is that the state and local response efforts were the key to success in California, not those of the federal government. FEMA, itself, is overstretched and overwhelmed. State and local preparedness holds the key to able disaster preparedness.
With this fact, at least, Allen agreed, noting that it takes around 72 hour for the national government to step in and that the people need to be responsible for their own well being during this time. However, the emphasis in disaster response still falls on the national government. This focus needs to shift to the states and localities in order for America to be truly prepared.