Administration seems to be following new framework after Sandy
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "further improve coordination between all levels of government, create better evacuation plan guidelines, ensure prompt federal assistance to emergency zones, and increase medical surge capacity."
In September 2011, the Obama administration released an intergovernmental plan for handling future disasters titled, "National Disaster Recovery Framework: Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation.”
The framework is designed to provide "a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. It also focuses on how best to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of the community.”.
The framework lays out specifics about how officials of the federal government, states, localities and tribal governments are supposed to work together to handle disasters. Its core areas include rules and guidance on such areas as who has jurisdiction, how pre-disaster planning should be handled and how information can be spread to the public.
For instance, on one of the issues cited in the promise -- medical surge capacity -- the framework prioritizes "pre-disaster contracting and planning to meet the emergency needs of children and adults with disabilities, including the provision of disability-related assistance and functional needs support services, consumable medical supplies (and) durable medical equipment.”
How has this framework played out so far? The most far-reaching disaster of the Obama presidency was Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the Atlantic coastline in late October 2012.
During Sandy, "evacuation was taken seriously, with early mandatory evacuations being required -- for which the feds were more in the background (than in the past), providing information about the storm's likely path and need for evacuation,” said Peter J. May, a disaster-policy specialist at the University of Washington.
In addition, May said, "pre-disaster planning paid off with early, pre-storm declarations of major disaster in some states and counties … with locating supplies and generators in areas that could use them, and with building ‘surge' capabilities with transportation of utility crews from across the country.”
Robert B. Olshansky, a professor in the department of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), agreed.
"Obama appears to be operating in the spirit” of his campaign promises on disaster management, Olshansky said. "He is promising to cut red tape, and he is getting positive reviews from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut for his attentiveness to their problems.”
No disaster-recovery effort is perfect, but we believe the administration has shown enough improvement to justify a Promise Kept.
Federal Emergency Management Agency,National Disaster Recovery Framework: Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation, September 2011
Federal Emergency Management Agency, "Federal Family and Partners Continue to Support States Impacted by Sandy," Nov. 5, 2012
White House, "Ongoing Response to Hurricane Sandy," Nov. 15, 2012
Email interview with Robert B. Olshansky, urban and regional planning professor at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Nov. 6, 2012
Email interview with Peter J. May, political scientist at the University of Washington, Nov. 16, 2012
Study of disaster recovery underway
On Aug. 27, 2009, FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate announced the launch of the development of a National Disaster Recovery Framework.
In a Sept. 26, 2009, letter, Fugate explained the project like this: "The Northridge Earthquake, Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as other disasters, provided valuable lessons in how communities can renew and rebuild, but also identified critical challenges that we must address as a nation to ensure that the necessary resources and capabilities are in place. Our goal is to create a comprehensive coordinating structure that will enhance our ability to work together and effectively deliver recovery assistance. This is a major undertaking, the success of which will hinge on the active engagement of our stakeholders nationwide."
The group, co-chaired by the secretaries of Homeland Security, and Housing and Urban Development will look for areas to improve collaboration among federal agencies and among the federal government and state and local governments.
The final draft of the framework is due June 1, 2010.
By the end of 2010, the Department of Homeland Security will release a revised National Incident Management System, which provides a national framework to enable federal, state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate the effects of incidents.
Lastly, the Department of Homeland Security has committed to providing $39 million in grant funding in 2010 for the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which helps coordinate the response of emergency management, health and medical systems responding to mass-casualty incidents.
We move this Promise to In the Works.
FEMA Web site, National Disaster Recovery Framework Initiative, Aug. 27, 2009
Disaster Recovery Working Group, Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group Purpose Statement
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Preparedness, Metropolitan Medical Response System