Go get 'em, Dad! This is a letter that my dad got published in The Oregonian, Oregon's only real paper. I call it a "real paper," even though sometimes I wonder about their reporting--but what news organization doesn't make you think that it's a circus from time to time? Anyway, here's the letter! The names have been changed to protect the conservatives.
Stop blaming the feds
There is a great myth perpetuated upon the American public that we can be well prepared for catastrophic natural disasters by good planning and a quick response by the federal government. In fact, we can only be better prepared.
As the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region X in Seattle, I oversaw the federal response to massive floods, fires, earthquakes, two hurricanes and other less dramatic events in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, California, Hawaii and Guam. In my experience, in every instance, the effectiveness of the initial response was directly dependent on the preparedness of city, county and state governments, rather than the federal government.
I knew within 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina that President Bush would become the scapegoat for the failure of others. That failure of the initial response in New Orleans rests squarely on the shoulders of local and state officials. By law, in most cases the federal government provides funding for preparedness and the "how to" of an immediate initial response. But the initial response is solely the responsibility of local and state governments. Only when they fail to cope and request help (often delayed by political considerations and poor communications) does FEMA enter the scene.
The advice of the feds is often spurned by local and state officials owing to small minds and big egos believing that they know better. Time and again, I saw well-reasoned and time-tested plans discarded by local politicians and planners who simply could not and would not believe that "some federal bureaucrat" could tell them how to prepare for statistically improbable events.
Someday a great earthquake will hit the Oregon and Washington coastlines, and we will witness a similar fate. Will we be ready or will we point a finger at Washington, D.C., and whine helplessly?