September 07, 2005
THE BEST ARGUMENT YET for seeing heads roll at FEMA:
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. . . .
The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.
"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."
This does sound like a bureaucracy that doesn't understand the urgency of the situation.
UPDATE: Of course, there seems to be a lot of dumb decisionmaking at all levels:
The Fox News Channel's Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume's show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center.
That's consistent with this report. Apparently, they wanted people hungry, thirsty, and anxious to leave.
Video of the Red Cross story here, from Ian Schwartz.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Readers who are telling me that it was the Department of Homeland Security that was behind blocking the Red Cross are confused. Here's the Red Cross statement:
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
That's the state DHS, not a federal agency. This is also made clear in the video linked above.