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Context of '(11:00 am) August 29, 2005: FEMA Director Requests 1,000 DHS Volunteers to Assist in FEMA-Community Relations'

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FEMA is merged into the Emergency and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. Michael D. Brown, the agency’s new head (see March 1, 2003), assures skeptics that the revamped agency will be “FEMA on steroids.” [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004] FEMA’s Cabinet status disappears as it becomes one of 22 government agencies to be consolidated into DHS. According to the Washington Post,“For a time… even its name was slated to vanish and become simply the directorate of emergency preparedness and response until then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge relented.” [Washington Post, 9/4/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Michael D. Brown, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA Director Michael Brown will spend today working on hurricane preparations in his office. Brown will sign off on two declarations; one releasing federal money for the response to Katrina, the other approving a similar request for money to battle a California wildfire, FEMA officials will later tell National Public Radio. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will monitor the situation from his home, according to a later statement from Russ Knocke, the Homeland Security representative. [National Public Radio, 9/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Michael D. Brown, Russ Knocke

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. [White House, 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. [CNN, 8/27/2005] Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. [Reuters, 9/15/2005] In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/15/2005] In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time.

Entity Tags: Stafford Act, National Response Plan, William Lokey, Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush, Michael D. Brown, Hurricane Andrew, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA will pre-stage supplies and responders in Louisiana and the surrounding region today. Pre-staged supplies include generators, water, ice and food, baby formula, and communications equipment. [Associated Press, 8/29/2005] The Chicago Tribune will report that FEMA stages its emergency supplies at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, about four hours from New Orleans. [Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The FEMA responders who are pre-positioning today include Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Teams and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). Just how many responders are deployed remains unclear. The Dallas Morning News, will later report FEMA deploys 500 people in search-and-rescue and medical teams to Shreveport, Louisiana today. [Dallas Morning News, 8/29/2005] FEMA will report that it has deployed 18 DMATs to staging areas in Houston, Anniston and Memphis, including nine full DMATs (35 members per team) and nine strike teams (5 members per team). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005] ABC News will report that FEMA pre-positions approximately 1,300 disaster assistance workers before landfall. [ABC News, 9/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center hosts a teleconference with FEMA officials, including FEMA Director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. [Times-Picayune, 9/4/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/5/2005] President Bush receives a briefing via video conference from his ranch in Crawford Texas. [US President, 9/5/2005] Brown assures Bush during this briefing that FEMA is ready for the storm, according to ABC News. [ABC News, 9/8/2005] Bush tells Brown that he is very impressed with everything FEMA is doing, according to Brown [CBS News, 8/29/2005]
Note - Whether President Bush participates in this particular briefing is not clear from current reports. However, it is undisputed that Bush receives a briefing from Mayfield via videoconference at some point this morning.

Entity Tags: Michael D. Brown, Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush, Max Mayfield, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Around this time, FEMA Director Michael Brown sends a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, requesting 1,000 additional DHS employees within 48 hours, and 2,000 within seven days. Based on the letter, Brown seeks volunteers to serve as community relations liaisons. Describing Katrina as “this near catastrophic event,” Brown describes the role of the requested volunteers as follows:
bullet Establish and maintain positive working relationships with disaster affected communities and the residents of those communities.
bullet Collect and disseminate information and make referrals for appropriate assistance.
bullet [Identify] potential issues within the community and report[] to appropriate personnel.
bullet Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the public.
bullet Perform outreach with community leaders on available Federal disaster assistance. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/29/2005 pdf file] Natalie Rule, FEMA representative, will later confirm that Brown is seeking volunteers to “answer phones, do community relations and help set up field hospitals,” and similar “non-emergency tasks.” [CNN, 9/7/2005]
Note - When this memo becomes public, many will criticize Brown, charging, for example, that “Brown waited until about five hours after the storm’s landfall before he proposed sending 1,000 federal workers to deal with the aftermath” [Time, 9/11/2005] , or, as the Boston Globe reports, that “[Brown] did not ask the authority to dispatch FEMA personnel to the region until five hours after the storm had passed.” [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] However these reports fail to recognize that, at the time Brown requests these volunteers, FEMA has already deployed more than 1,000 staff members workers to the area (see August 28, 2005). [CNN, 9/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Hurricane Katrina, Michael D. Brown

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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