Monday, September 05, 2005

The Federal/State of Louisiana emergency response agreement

Louisiana's and the federal disaster response plans clearly detail the roles and responsibilites of first responders. The liberal MSM (eg: Bush's Hurricane Response a Disaster) is not referencing any of the official information presented here and is assessing the blame for lack of an initial first responder response on the federal government.

Porkopolis hereby calls 'bullshit' on all such attacks on the federal response. What follows will show that Louisiana did not adhere to the agreement they made with the federal government to provide first responders.

Update: ABC News is finally showing a bit of curiosity about the city's disaster response plan.

Here's why:

The following diagram is from page Appendix D (Figure APP-D — Overview of a Disaster Operation) (pdf document page 308) of the Federal Response Plan 2003 (click on the diagram to view a larger image).

The plan is registered on Louisiana's Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness site along with the state's Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) Supplement 1a - Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation & Sheltering Plan. These two plans together detail the local/state/federal responsibilites. Because the federal plan is actually referenced on the Louisiana site, one can assume that Louisiana understood the terms of the relationship/'agreement' (agreement is the word actually used on page ix of the federal plan) between the federal government and the state government.

Update: The Louisiana's Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness main page contains this guiding principal:

As much as we try to prepare for catastrophic disasters and to reduce our risk from their devastation, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other disasters still happen.

When they do, local and state officials are the first to respond. If the loss of life and property overwhelms this response, the federal government ... including FEMA ... is called upon to help.




As you can see from the diagram which respresents the Overview of Disaster Operations, the flow of response for a 'Disaster' is as follows:


Local First Responders (Arrive First at Scene) -->
Alert -->
Mayor/County Executive (Activates Local Emergency
Operations Center) --->
Request Aid From -->
Governor (Activates State Emergency Operations Center) -->
Requests Presidential Declaration

This is reinforced by the following paragraph on page 8 of the federal plan (pdf page 23) in the section entitled 'B. Resource Coordination and Management':


1. To the maximum extent possible, internal State and local resources should be used as the first line of support in response to a disaster. Intra-State and inter-State mutual aid can provide an additional option for timely and cost-effective resource support that can be executed prior to a Presidential disaster declaration. Mutual aid can be particularly useful in a disaster that depletes the resources of an individual State or community, but does not require a Presidential declaration.
When the investigations are complete, they will show that Louisiana broke the agreement they made with the federal government.

The Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana came to conclusion that they were not able to fulfill their first responder responsibilities and then asked for immediate (first responder-like) assistance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Managment Agency (FEMA).

Immediate first responder support was not part of the agreement for the federal government and saying so is just basic blame shifting.

In light of the broken agreement, the President's and federal response should actually be applauded instead of derided.

Update:
This CNN Videolink has Soledad O'Brien interviewing Mayor Nagin. The description on CNN is "New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has some more pointed words for the federal government about its response to Katrina (September 5)" but it really should be "Governor Blanco waits 24 hours to respond to President Bush's offer to help".

View the whole thing; transcript here.

Update 2: Jay Levitt in the comments below states the following:


First, kudos for trying to keep this fact-based, sourced and cited. However, you're looking at only a small piece of the puzzle - probably because Louisiana's site links to an older, interim version of the FRP (now called the NRP, or National Response Plan). That in itself is an interesting data point, though.

During "normal" emergencies, whatever those are, the local and state overnments may well be the first responders. However, there's an entire new annex to the NRP in the 2004 version, called the Catastrophic Incident Annex. And that makes it clear that when Major Stuff Happens, state governments are expected to be overwhelmed, and FEMA is supposed to haul ass first, coordinate later.

Check out the latest version of the NRP at

Federal National Response Plan


and see if you don't agree. Or check out my leftie's quick guide to it at

Not my job, man.
This is worthy of a response:

1. The information quoted above is directly from Louisiana's web site. It's very reasonable to expect that the state and local entities are going by the very rules and guidelines they publish on their own site.

Are you asking everyone to believe that if a city or parish didn't follow the official published guidelines they could just make up their own?


2. Absolutely the federal government is here to help. But here's the issue for the State of Louisiana (and City of New Orleans)...You at a miminum have to go through the motions and make it look like your trying to help yourself and implement your own plan. Furthermore, the civilian humanitarian workers coming in to provide assitance have every right to expect an environment that is safe from criminal attack. Not providing this environment will compound the problems.

The delays some are complaining about resulted from the added responsibility that was put on the federal government to create that safe environment. A situation created by the city's and the state's ineptness in following their plan.

It should go without saying, but it appears we have to be real specific with a lot of folks in the liberal MSM... aid workers can't provide aid if...well, if their dead!


Now for the details (also consolidated in Looking for holes in this thesis on the so-called lack of federal response in New Orleans):

From the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) Supplement 1a - Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation & Sheltering Plan page 9, Section C. Concept of Operations:


1. When a hurricane enters or takes form in the Gulf of Mexico, it is perceived as a potential catastrophic threat to the Southeast Louisiana Region. As the danger from the hurricane requires the initiation of emergency actions, the State Office of Emergency Preparedness and each parish will activate Emergency Operating Centers (EOCs) and declare a state of emergency. The State and parishes will commence planned emergency operations and coordinate their actions including activating and maintaining all means of communications. [More on this below; see Maintaining Communicatoins]The State, risk area and host area parishes will cooperate to evacuate and shelter as many people as possible in accordance with the Dept. of Social Services (DSS) / American Red Cross (ARC) Shelter Plan.

2. Evacuation will be carried out in three phases, as follows:

a. Precautionary / Voluntary: This phase will concentrate on people who are most vulnerable to a hurricane and the effects of both water and wind. It is directed at offshore workers, persons on coastal islands or in wetlands areas and persons aboard boats. No special traffic control, transportation, or sheltering measures will be taken.

b. Recommended Evacuation: This phase is enacted when a storm has a high probability of causing a significant threat to people living in the areas at risk. Parish and State government authorities will recommend that persons at risk evacuate. The parishes will designate staging areas for persons needing transportation, if necessary.
[More on this below. See: Mandatory Evacuation and the evacuation of New Orleans; The City of New Orleans had is own disaster/evacuation plan which complements the state's disaster plan: ]

c. Mandatory:This is the final, most serious phase of evacuation. Authorities will put maximum emphasis on encouraging evacuation and limiting ingress. Designated State evacuation routes maybe augmented by turning additional lanes into one-way outbound traffic and the State Police with Local law enforcement assistance will assume responsibility for traffic control on those routes. As the storm gets close to the Southeast Region, evacuation routes will be closed and the people remaining will be directed to last resort refuges.
Maintaining Communications: The New Orleans radio system flooded!
"Not only that, Louisiana State Police turned away repair technicians when they attempted to reach the city, according to an on-scene report the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International relayed to Federal Computer Week."
Also this, New Orleans Cops Use Single Radio Channel:
Police in New Orleans, their main communications system knocked out, have been taking turns talking on a single radio channel with their walkie talkies.
Is anyone prepared to make a case that the New Orleans Police Department did not have the responsibility to have a communications system that could survive a flood with a backup power supply? Anyone?!?

Besides the obvious reasons, why is this so important? This was part of what General Blum: in his September 3, 2005 briefing called "the real issue":
The real issue, particularly in New Orleans, is that no one anticipated the disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police force in New Orleans. Once that assessment was made, that the normal 1500 man police force in New Orleans was substantially degraded, which contributed obviously to less police presence and less police capability, then the requirement became obvious and that's when we started flowing military police into the theater.

So the police can't keep order and of course everybody's hearts goes out to the people that are being victimized, but you can't bring in federal civilian response teams and have them shot at. You would just be compounding the situation. Was that a possibility...that's not only a possibility, it was the exact situation:

Troops to confront New Orleans looters amid mass evacuation


A National Guardsman was shot and a rescue helicopter came under fire as mounting violence shadowed massive efforts to evacuate the hurricane-stricken city of New Orleans.
Which accounts for the following extremely telling statement and response to a question from General Blum:
The most contentious issues were lawlessness in the streets, and particularly a potentially very dangerous volatile situation in the convention center where tens of thousands of people literally occupied that on their own. We had people that were evacuated from hotels, and tourists that were lumped together with some street thugs and some gang members that -- it was a potentially very dangerous situation.

We waited until we had enough force in place to do an overwhelming force. Went in with police powers, 1,000 National Guard military policemen under the command and control of the adjutant general of the State of Louisiana, Major General Landreneau, yesterday shortly after noon stormed the convention center, for lack of a better term, and there was absolutely no opposition, complete cooperation, and we attribute that to an excellent plan, superbly executed with great military precision...

Q: One quick follow-up. Is it fair to say, using the convention center as an
example, that one reason it took until Friday to get aid in is the National Guard needed time to build up a response team with military police to ensure law and order because the New Orleans Police Department had degraded so much
?

GEN. BLUM: That is not only fair, it is accurate. You've concisely stated exactly what was needed, and I told you why. We took the time to build the right force. The outcome was superb. No lives hurt, nobody injured. It was done almost invisibly.

Obviously evacuees did get hurt, and General Blum is referring to civilians involved in the humanitarian effort. Think of the horror, times two, if the aid workers that came in to help were also being hurt and unable to perform their humanitarian mission.

To be intellectually honest, those that advocate that the federal government should have anticipated the "disintegration or the erosion of the civilian police" would also be making a case for the pre-disaster/hurricane, federal and/or state takeover of the civilian police force. A police force that would "disintegrate" during an emergency was a danger by definition.

Mandatory Evacuation:

Captains Quarter's has an excellent, extremely detailed post with supporting documentation entitled, Katrina: Why Didn't Nagin Follow His Own Plan? Here's the essence of the investigation:


So the failure to order the buses out of their yards wasn't some failure of imagination on the part of Nagin and New Orleans. It isn't a case of the city not understanding the scale of what a Cat-4 storm could do to the city. According to New Orleans' own emergency plan, those buses should have rolled at least as soon as the mandatory evacuation order was given on Saturday, if not when the voluntary evac order came earlier. The city's OEP failed to carry out this crucial part of the emergency-response plan, which is why so many of the poor, infirm, and just plain stubborn citizens got stranded when the levees broke.
Whatever state, federal and local resources were in New Orleans at that time now had as their first priority search and rescue.

The self inflicted wounds of an inept first responder police force, unable to maintain order and the allocation of resources to the search and rescue priority, caused the collapse of the state's and city's disaster plan; The heavy priority placed on search and rescue was a direct result of the city not following it's own evacuation plan.

These wounds were then cortorized by a very rapid, "overwhelming force" response after New Orleans and the state had broken their end of the agreement of implementing their plan and providing first responder assistance. As General Blum has noted that helped the evacuees and kept the civilian humanitarian workers safe.

One final thought on the New Orleans Police Department. Bill Whittle's post ( 'Tribes') contains this extremely thought provoking section that brings to mind the obvious question,"Will anyone be clamering for NOPD hats?" (To be very clear that's NOPD as opposed to NO PD):


It may come as a bit of a shock to these worldly sophisticates, who are so quick to point out how parochial and ignorant we simple folk are, that the United States of America has local, state and federal governments! And that this is the order in which crises are dealt with!

A person of some modest education might have remembered that the worship and adulation fostered after 9/11 was for the NYPD and the FDNY. No one was buying FEMA hats after 9/11, because FEMA is essentially a mop-up agency. It's the first responders, the local governments, that will determine if a city will live or die. The State -- that means, the "governor"-- has the sole authority to mobilize the National Guard, and the governor of the state of Louisana was not only slow to do that, she turned down NG assistance from several OTHER states as well. The President does not have the authority to drop precious egg salad sandwiches from Michael Moore's missing helicopters. We do this ON PURPOSE. We limit the power of the federal government, as those of us fortunate enough to have spent time in Civics, rather than Self Esteem classes, are aware. This is so that we do not develop a central power so strong that eventually we end up with idiot inbred royals, or Presidentes for life, on the face of OUR money.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To the maximum extent possible, internal State and local resources should be used as the first line of support..."

There's only so much you can do with 1500 police officers when there are 30,000 people at the Superdome and another 20,000 at the Convention Center AND armed gangs are wandering the streets. And Louisiana's tiny National Guard could not secure that city and rescue those people.

It was clear by Tuesday night that the only solution was military.

Only one person could have cut through the bickering and red tape and given the mission to the military.

That person is President Bush.

And it took him until Friday to get a clue. Meanwhile American citizens needlessly died.

The President let us down.

September 6, 2005 at 2:40 AM  
Blogger Typo said...

There's this thing called the Constitution which prevented Bush from flaunting the Governor's authority. It wasn't just red tape unless you consider the Constitution, red tape.

And it took til Thurs/Friday for the Governor to get over her pride and set things in motion.

If Bush declared the Constitution, 'red tape', and decided to attack Iran without the conscent of Congress, would you agree to that?

September 6, 2005 at 4:27 AM  
Anonymous Jay Levitt said...

First, kudos for trying to keep this fact-based, sourced and cited. However, you're looking at only a small piece of the puzzle - probably because Louisiana's site links to an older, interim version of the FRP (now called the NRP, or National Response Plan). That in itself is an interesting data point, though.

During "normal" emergencies, whatever those are, the local and state governments may well be the first responders. However, there's an entire new annex to the NRP in the 2004 version, called the Catastrophic Incident Annex. And that makes it clear that when Major Stuff Happens, state governments are expected to be overwhelmed, and FEMA is supposed to haul ass first, coordinate later.

Check out the latest version of the NRP at http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRP_FullText.pdf and see if you don't agree. Or check out my leftie's quick guide to it at http://www.jay.fm/blog/not-my-job-man.html.

September 6, 2005 at 4:41 AM  
Anonymous PLuto's Dad said...

Anonymous:

you don't seem to understand the fact that you CAN'T send the military ANYWHERE on 24 hours notice. The LANG General said to Geraldo "if we came in on Monday, we'd be victims too" You can't just send men in, you have to have transportation, you need food and water for the military, so they can distribute other food and water. otherwise you're just adding more victims, more victims with guns.

The reason the state and local governments have to respond is that it is LOGISTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for the federal government to respond in less than 72 hours. Getting 10,000 troops together takes time. THe local governments have all the food, water, buses, and helicopters that would have been needed, but they didn't use them. THe feds have NEVER IN HISTORY been the 1st responders.

Does Florida use your excuses? No, if they did thousands of people would die in Florida every year.

September 6, 2005 at 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Jay Levitt said...

Pluto's Dad - I don't necessarily disagree with you; I've got no background in military logistics, and it sounds like you do.

But apparently the DHS seems to think that it's possible for the federal government to pre-identify assets, and begin mobilizing immediately upon notice of the castrophe - which, in this case, should have been no later than the 27th, when the state of emergency was declared. (And, in fact, it's starting to look like they DID stage some assets near the storm center, but not enough, and they somehow failed to actually get them to the citizenry until late in the week.) The plan specifically mentions the issues you raise - food and water for the responders, transportation, communications infrastructure, etc.

But if that's not possible after all, and there's simply no way for the federal government to initiate disaster efforts, then wouldn't you say that the DHS's catastrophe plan is horribly flawed? Have you read it?

September 6, 2005 at 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Anderson said...

Jay,

Criticism, especially now weeks out, is in order - as opposed to days out like some idiots were engaged in (I'm not talking about those in the affected areas but partisan wonks mainly on the side of trying to 'blast Bush' obsessively).

But to critique the federal response without even holding up the basic and doable actions of the local entities for equivalent scrutiny is irresponsible and smacks of subjectivity.

That's why everyone has a basic gut instinct that the submerged buses meant that people died that shouldn't have died and that that was a local and state problem because they had those resources immediately at their disposal and chose not to use them.

That is probably why most people died there (aside from stubborness) and then it set back federal efforts after that as 10,000 people or whatever were airlifted out of there while the others re-took the streets.

Now, now we've come to the place where you can blame the feds response...

Does a state overwhelmed include the Governor of the State and the Mayor of the main affected city not making doable decisions that they clearly could have and should have made? How is that due to state resources being overwhelmed? Unless the overwhelmed resource lay between their ears..

September 29, 2005 at 9:14 PM  

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