Katrina: Feds Reject Chicago Aid Offers

Chicago officials are angry and confused after FEMA rejected technical and material aid offers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Daley ‘shocked’ as feds reject aid (Chicago Sun-Times)

A visibly angry Mayor Daley said the city had offered emergency, medical and technical help to the federal government as early as Sunday to assist people in the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, but as of Friday, the only things the feds said they wanted was a single tank truck. That truck, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested to support an Illinois-based medical team, was en route Friday.

“We are ready to provide more help than they have requested. We are just waiting for their call,” said Daley, adding that he was “shocked” that no one seemed to want the help.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would call for congressional hearings into the federal government’s preparations and response. “The response was achingly slow, and that, I think, is a view shared by Democrats, Republicans, wealthy and poor, black and white,” the freshman senator said. “I have not met anybody who has watched this crisis evolve over the last several days who is not just furious at how poorly prepared we appeared to be.”

The South Side Democrat called FEMA’s slow response “baffling.” “I don’t understand how you could have a situation where you’ve got several days’ notice of an enormous hurricane building in the Gulf Coast, you know that New Orleans is 6 feet below sea level. … The notion that you don’t have good plans in place just does not make sense,” Obama said. Obama said he expects his counterparts in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama will call for congressional hearings, but he is ready if they do not. “It’s heartbreaking and infuriating and, I think, is embarrassing to the American people.”

Daley said the city offered 36 members of the firefighters’ technical rescue teams, eight emergency medical technicians, search-and-rescue equipment, more than 100 police officers as well as police vehicles and two boats, 29 clinical and 117 non-clinical health workers, a mobile clinic and eight trained personnel, 140 Streets and Sanitation workers and 29 trucks, plus other supplies. City personnel are willing to operate self-sufficiently and would not depend on local authorities for food, water, shelter and other supplies, he said.

While there is probably a rationale for this that makes perfect sense to FEMA bureaucrats, it’ll be hard to come up with one that will satisfy normal Americans. Quite bizarre.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    In case we are still wondering “who is responsible”? This is from the dept. of homeland security website:

    In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America’s families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I’m sure that will change very soon. Delete any reference to natural disasters.

  3. ken says:

    Given that FEMA had a two day warning that a huge hurricane was going to hit the coast and it took them until four days AFTER THE FACT to mount a ‘swift and effective recovery effort’, I would guess that without any warning Americans can plan on being on their own for six days or more. Bush is running a totally pathetic administration.

  4. John Anderson says:

    FEMA spokesperson said he was “just hearing” about stuff like people being in the convention center – a day after it was on national TV!

    Homeland “Security”, FEMA: bah!

    Not that there’s a lack of other clueless “Leaders”.

  5. hondo -NYC says:

    We all have witnessed hundreds of national natural disasters in the past. I myself have participated in recovery/support at the local level and worked with FEMA and related Aid agencies. My fondest memory is of a retired couple from Ohio who travel with a Red Cross food services truck who provide meals (even barbeques)and candy for children. Having said all that – what the hell is wrong with NO! (don’t see this behavior in Gulfport, Biloxi etc.). Rampaging crime, looting, rape, arson, armed gangs mauranding thru the streets! (Immediately after no less!) Ya thing that might impact on recovery – DUH! Hell, the National Guard is under the command of the STATE OF LA – the Gov can call up and mobilize them all in 5 minutes for a parade if she wanted. When we respond to a disaster area the first thing we do is check in with local authorities, ask them what THEY need, what THEY want us to do, and where THEY want us to go. The biggest mistake the Fed made was assuming THEY had a clue.

  6. cirby says:

    Why is Chicago even talking to FEMA?

    They should know that their contact is the State of Louisiana. The Feds *can’t* accept help on behalf of the state.

    My bet is that someone from Chicago called FEMA, the FEMA guy said “call Louisiana disaster recovery,” and the caller got pissed off.

    It’s like that Canadian team that some folks are blathering about. They called someone Wednesday (not the right folks), and the other folks said “not yet” (there was already one Canadian team down here, sitting in some small town, doing nothing since they were trapped and had to wait for the locals to organize) A bunch of Canadians got their panties in a twist about it.

  7. cirby says:

    Why is Chicago even talking to FEMA?

    They should know that their contact is the State of Louisiana. The Feds *can’t* accept help on behalf of the state.

    My bet is that someone from Chicago called FEMA, the FEMA guy said “call Louisiana disaster recovery,” and the caller got pissed off.

    It’s like that Canadian team that some folks are blathering about. They called someone Wednesday , and the other folks said “not yet” (there was already one Canadian team down here, sitting in some small town, doing nothing since they were trapped and had to wait for the locals to organize) A bunch of Canadians got their panties in a twist about it.

  8. cirby says:

    It should *really* be noted that the “Homeland Security” they’re talking about isn’t the Federal one. It’s the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the lead agency in that state for disaster recovery.

    A lot of reporters have made this mistake, because of the similar names.

    From their website:

    “The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LHLS & EP); formally the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP), was created by the Civil Act of 1950 and is under the Louisiana Military Department. In 1976 LHLS & EP via the Louisiana government reorganization, was moved to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). In 1990 LHLS & EP was transferred again to the Military Department. In 2003 the Agency name was changed to the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, reflecting the additional responsibilities to the State and her citizens.”

    …so it should be “Locals reject” in the headline, not “Feds.”

  9. cirby says:

    http://www.ohsep.louisiana.gov/

    This is the actual “Homeland Security” that told Chicago not to send people.

    Note that it’s a Louisiana state agancy, not the Federal one, and merely shares a similar name.

    Also: The head of FEMA is a bureaucrat who writes checks. The people who have tha actual knowledge about disaster recovery are a coupe of layers below him. Blaming the head of FEMA for not knowing this stuff is pretty silly.

    He’s doing his job, which is to coordinate the money flows. He doesn’t have to know anything about actual disasters, he just has to be able to allocate funds.

    The fact that you se all of the material flowing into the area *now* just shows that he did a pretty good job.

  10. Stacy says:

    FEMA right now is a political disgrace. Bush placed a guy in charge of it that has virtually no experience in disaster response (he does however know a lot about Arabian horses) and in addition to spurning aid from Chicago, FEMA and DHS turned the Red Cross out of New Orleans, despite the fact that the Red Cross are experts in responding to this type of crisis.

    There has been a lot of talk about the administration’s usual political pettiness. They dont like the mayor of Chicago and see it as a democratic city and thus are willing to say “fuck you” to the non-partisan gesture of providing aid. They are willing to heap loads of criticism on the Mayor of NO and the governor (who DO share some responsibility) because they are democrats. There is no way in hell the political Right and the administration would be saying the things they are if those folks were republican. And if you think that’s not the case, you are naive.

    When the last hurricane hit Florida, do you think Jebbers was told help couldnt come quickly because they had not filed the appropriate paperword? Please.