Henry Brown

If you put the RIGHT resources on the problem alot of things can happen, not the least of which is engagement which will naturally cause an increase in speed and precision.

The GovExec article touts the FEMA change from Katrina to SandyMoore OK… I believe the reason for the change was during Katrina FEMA’s Disaster Recovery team probably consisted of 100 full time employees and maybe another 100 trained paid volunteers involved in disaster recovery. After the disaster (pun) intended of FEMA’s response to Katrina President Bush signed into Law the FEMA reform act in 2006 which addressed and apparently solved a significant number of problems. Not the least significant of the changes was the manning level of FEMA. As I now understand there are over 20 percent of the full time employees(~7500) working in the disaster recovery group

When I arrived in New Orleans the Tuesday after the dikes broke I was one of the first arrivals of the 1000 or so volunteers who had anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours of training. Not all, but a significant portion of the training was to how to “protect” FEMA and DHS from any bad press. I was fortunate enough to be given a role (network/computer support in both the customer support group and the wharehousing group) that required very little additional training. But for those people who were providing inspections and confirming needs … I am surprised that the number of inspections was as high as 7500. Considering that there was probably 50 fully trained inspectors…. a significant amount of time in the first 3 weeks was training the other 2000 inspectors … And although I got a waiver to stay for an additional 30 days, for a total of 60 days, most of the volunteers were leaving after 30 days and same thing all over again.

Another issue that I had with FEMA was the mobile device policy… Not sure that I saw more than 10 percent of the FEMA staff using mobile devices, be it smart-phones, tablets, or laptops. Granted this was 2005, but saw a significant number of volunteers(myself included) attempting to work with FEMA in the utilization of our own mobile devices only to be told you can’t use that smart phone to put pictures on our network or we can’t control what you put on your laptop or some other excuse…

When the Alabama tornadoes in April 2011 struck, I being in the area affected and available went to the FEMA group on the ground in Madison AL and was told they were fully staffed with trained personal but I was encouraged to go over to the State group and volunteer(which I did and was accepted) Which meant that I was working beside the FEMA staff, the majority of which were full time employees. As far as inspections, they had dedicated trained inspectors(unlike Katrina where a majority of the inspectors were true volunteers and the Katrina inspectors were also dealing with customer service at the help centers) Although I didn’t see a lot of inspectors (my job was to provide network support for the State agency), there wasn’t a single inspector that I saw who did not have a smart phone AND a tablet/laptop to assist them in their inspections…

The Govexec article does in fact bring to the table the effect of funding and I suspect that I agree with them, as I read the article, gone are the days when throwing money at the problem is the quickest and easiest solution not sure that it has ever been true but that is perhaps for another post…