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September 03, 2005

FEMA Hurricane Advice: "Make sure you're accounting for all your expenses"

As if to prove my point about the need for a new kind of federal armed force designed from the ground up to provide peacekeeping and disaster relief services, today's NYT quoted Charleston, SC Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. thusly:

Mr. Riley, the Charleston mayor, whose Police Department on Monday sent 55 officers to help keep order in Gulfport, Miss., said he had long advocated creating a special military entity - perhaps under the Corps of Engineers - that could respond immediately to disasters.

"It's not the police function," he said. "It's that it's an entity that knows how to quickly restore infrastructure and the essentials of order." He said his own experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency during Hurricane Hugo in 1989, when he had the National Guard on standby and then requested Army troops and marines, had convinced him that civilian bureaucracy was sometimes too caught up in the niceties.

"With the eye of Hugo over my City Hall, literally, I said to a FEMA official, 'What's the main bit of advice you can give me?' and he said, 'You need to make sure you're accounting for all your expenses," Mayor Riley recalled. "The tragedy of these things is the unnecessary pain in those early days, the complete destruction of normalcy."

Riley, Charleston's mayor for the last 29 years and a Democrat, should know of whence he speaks. Hugo was a category 4 hurricane when it hit Charleston in 1989, laying waste to large parts of that beautiful, historic city.

September 3, 2005 at 05:06 PM | Permalink


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