FEMA mistakes revisited

Published 8:46 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By Staff
As another natural disaster threatens homes and businesses in the Midwest, it will be interesting to see how the Federal Emergency Management Agency responds to the massive flooding of the Mississippi River.
In the gulf coast region we're especially attuned to the mistakes FEMA made after Hurricane Katrina and other storms around that time. And now comes news that FEMA doesn't plan to provide us ice after a hurricane.
Why? Because last time they tried, they never delivered it, so it sat in storage for months at a cost of more than $12 million. Essentially, we're being punished yet again for a FEMA mistake.
Living along or near the coast, we know that we'll experience hurricanes from time to time. We know that we shouldn't rely on the federal government to take care of our every need.
But in an emergency, when much of the state and local governments are trying to cope with power outages, massive damage and injuries not just to residents but to the government offices themselves, bringing in ice is one of the things FEMA could - and should - get right.
Ice isn't just needed because it gets uncomfortably hot in Alabama for most of hurricane season or so that we can have cold cut sandwiches instead of peanut butter.
In south Alabama, ice during a power outage is an absolute necessity. The very young and the very old are especially vulnerable to heat, and some medications need to be kept on ice as well. The Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency director, quoted earlier this week in the Mobile Press-Register, got it right: “Some people making these decisions have clearly never been in south Alabama on a summer day,” Leigh Ann Ryals said.
We're pretty confident that the state will be able to come up with a plan for making sure residents have at least some ice in the event of a storm; we saw a great local and state response after Ivan and Katrina. But ice is one of the items the state shouldn't have to worry about. If FEMA truly wants to work with state governments on strong emergency plans, they would respond to this kind of need. The state can take on other responsibilities - and has - during a storm.
Unfortunately, FEMA has gotten it wrong - again.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at kerry.bean@brewtonstandard.com.