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Context of '11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005: FEMA Situation Update Leads with Katrina, Activation of Emergency Support Functions'

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FEMA’s Friday Situation Update leads with Katrina, but does not discuss current FEMA operations related to the hurricane. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/25/2005] According to the Saturday Update, however, FEMA will activate its Red Team at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) today. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The NRCC, a functional component of the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), is a multi-agency center that provides overall federal response coordination. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005] The NRCC activates the following Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) and operations to prepare for Katrina:
bullet 1-Transportation (with an Air Ops Element)
bullet 3-Public Works and Engineering
bullet 4-Fire Fighting
bullet 5-Information and Planning
bullet 7-Resource Support
bullet 15-External Affairs
bullet Military Liaison. Note that FEMA does not list ESFs 14 and 15 as standard functions on its FEMA website. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 10/24/2004] However, these functions are part of the National Response Plan (NRP) issued by the Department of Homeland Security in December 2004. [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] According to the NRP, ESF-15 provides the resource support and mechanisms to implement the DHS’s Public Affairs policies and procedures. The Public Affairs policies and procedures, in turn, are intended “to rapidly mobilize Federal assets to prepare and deliver coordinated and sustained messages to the public in response to Incidents of National Significance and other major domestic emergencies.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] At the same time, FEMA’s Region 4 Response Coordination Center (RRCC), which serves Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, elevates to Level 2. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The RRCC coordinates regional response efforts and implements local Federal program support until a Joint Field Office is established. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/16/2005] Region 4’s RRCC activates the ESFs listed above, along with ESF-14 (long-term community recovery and mitigation). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] There is no mention of Region 6, which serves Louisiana.

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Response Coordination Center

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA’s National Situation Update again leads with Katrina, anticipating that Katrina will regenerate today as it travels across the Gulf of Mexico. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] The Update indicates that Emergency Operations Centers in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi have been activated at various levels. However, Louisiana is not even mentioned today’s Update. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/26/2005] A team leader critical of FEMA’s response in Louisiana will later speak to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, asserting that there was no sense of urgency within FEMA at this time: “Nobody’s turning the key to start the engine.” He wondered, “Why aren’t we treating this as a bigger emergency? Why aren’t we doing anything?” [Washington Post, 9/11/2005] Note, however, that the Washington Post report that FEMA is operating at Level 1 at this time contradicts FEMA’s contemporaneous report, which states that it began operating at Level 2 on Thursday. The National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) will not transition to Level 1 until Saturday, August 27 at 7:00 am EDT. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA’s National Situation Update once again leads with Katrina, noting that the Mississippi and Louisiana governors have declared a state of emergency, due to the threat posed by the hurricane. The Update warns, in bold type, that “New Orleans is of particular concern because much of that city lies below sea level,” and then continues: “[I]f the hurricane winds blow from a certain direction, there are dire predictions of what may happen in the city.” According to the Update, Department of Defense and Rapid Needs Assessment functions “are being activated,” while Region 4 (which serves Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, among others) remains at Level 2 operations. Curiously, the Update does not mention the status of Region 6, which serves Louisiana. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005] Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist (and president of the union representing FEMA staff), will later state that FEMA staff issues this Update at 5:30 this morning, and that they pointedly focused on New Orleans: “We used good, heavy black type. We said there’s a storm going toward New Orleans and it’s a Force—I think it was a Force 3, expected to strengthen into a Force 4 at that point. And we let them know this is a very serious situation. There were some resources being mobilized but really not quite enough for that kind of a scale. They get these things in person. They go to their office computer and to their BlackBerry.” According to Bosner’s later recollection, “We sent the information up and we’d expected that by the time we come in, everything would be swinging into action. We got there, and there was the sounds of silence.” [National Public Radio, 9/16/2005 Sources: Leo Bosner]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

At 6:00 am, FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) transitions to 24-hour operations, activating the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). FEMA also activates several more emergency support functions (in addition to those that were activated on Thursday (see 11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005)), including: communications; mass care (managing and coordinating food, shelter and first aid for victims, providing bulk distribution of relief supplies, and operating a system to assist family reunification); health and medical services; urban search and rescue; food delivery; hazardous materials management; and energy (restoring power and fuel supplies). [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/27/2005]

Entity Tags: Emergency Management Assistance Compact, National Response Coordination Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

FEMA’s Situation Update indicates that it is starkly aware of the dire situation in New Orleans, including the lack of transportation for many of the poorer residents: “Katrina could be especially devastating if it strikes New Orleans because the city sits below sea level and is dependent on levees and pumps to keep the water out. A direct hit could wind up submerging the city in several feet of water. Making matters worse, at least 100,000 people in the city lack the transportation to get out of town.” FEMA outlines preparations as follows: FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) Red Team and the National Emergency Response Team (Blue) have been fully activated. Region 4 (serving Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, among others) and Region 6 (serving Louisiana) are also fully activated. At the state level, both Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s Emergency Operations Centers are fully activated. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/28/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Operations Center, National Response Coordination Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

According to a FEMA statement, as of 10:00 am today, “FEMA’s emergency teams and resources are being deployed and configured for coordinated response to Hurricane Katrina.” This includes:
bullet FEMA has pre-staged critical commodities such as ice, water, meals, and tarps in various strategic locations to be made available to residents of affected areas: 500 trucks of ice, 500 trucks of water and 350 trucks of meals ready to eat (MREs) available for distribution over the next 10 days. Location: 26.2 N, 78.7 W.
bullet FEMA’s Hurricane Liaison Team is onsite and working closely with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.
bullet FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center and Regional Response Coordination Centers in Atlanta, Ga., and Denton, Texas, are operating around the clock, coordinating the pre-positioning of assets and responding to state requests for assistance.
bullet FEMA has deployed a National Emergency Response Team to Louisiana with a coordination cell positioned at the State Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge to facilitate state requests for assistance.
bullet FEMA has deployed four Advance Emergency Response Teams to locations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The teams include federal liaisons who work directly within county Emergency Operations Centers to respond to critical needs as they are identified by local officials and prioritized by the state.
bullet FEMA has pre-staged Rapid Needs Assessment teams in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
bullet FEMA has deployed nine Urban Search and Rescue task forces and incident support teams from Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
bullet FEMA has deployed 31 teams from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to staging areas in Anniston, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans, including 23 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. The teams, trained to handle trauma, pediatrics, surgery, and mental health problems, will bring truckloads of medical equipment and supplies.
bullet FEMA has deployed two Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams as part of its NDMS, which will support and rescue pets, and provide any needed veterinary medical care for rescue dogs. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Hurricane Katrina, National Response Coordination Center, National Hurricane Center, National Emergency Operations Center, National Disaster Medical System, National Emergency Response Team, Regional Response Coordination Centers, State Emergency Operations Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

Congress rewrites a two-centuries-old prohibition against the president using federal troops, or state National Guard troops acting under federal control, to act as police on domestic soil. The prohibition dates back to the Insurrection Act of 1807, which stated that the only circumstance under which the president could use troops to enforce the law against US citizens is during a time of armed revolt. The ban on using troops against citizens was strengthened by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids any government official from using military soldiers as police without specific authorization from Congress. The new law stems from the reported lawlessness that swept New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated large parts of the city. The governor of Louisiana, Democrat Kathleen Blanco, refused to allow the federal government to take over the evacuation of the city, fearing that the change would amount to martial law (see 11:00 am EDT August 25, 2005). After this rejection, and the devastation wrought in Texas by Hurricane Rita just weeks later, President Bush began discussing the idea of a new law that would allow the president to impose martial law in a region for reasons other than citizen uprisings. He called it “making the Department of Defense the lead agency” in handling emergencies such as those created by Katrina and Rita, or by another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. (Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo argues that the president does not need any new laws because his inherent authority as commander in chief lets him send federal troops anywhere he likes, no matter what the law says.) A year later, Congressional Republicans slip a provision into a large military appropriations bill allowing the president to deploy federal troops as police at his discretion, regardless of the possible objections of state governors. Any situation in which the president feels the “constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order” can trigger military control of a city, county, or state at the president’s behest. Bush signs the law into effect on October 17 with virtually no debate or public discussion. [Savage, 2007, pp. 316-319]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Insurrection Act, Posse Comitatus Act, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, John C. Yoo

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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