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Context of '6:00 am August 27, 2005: FEMA’s National Response Coordinating Center Transitions to 24-hour Operations'

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Bruce Baughman.Bruce Baughman. [Source: Elise Moore / FEMA]Bruce Baughman, director of the planning and readiness division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), takes charge at FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, because more senior FEMA officials, including the agency’s director, are away from the capital. FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh and Lacy Suiter, FEMA’s assistant director of readiness, response, and recovery, are in Big Sky, Montana, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (see September 8-11, 2001 and After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Baughman, who led FEMA’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), therefore has to take charge of FEMA’s response to today’s terrorist attacks. In this capacity, he is responsible for activating FEMA’s emergency operations center, dispatching disaster medical personnel to the scenes of the attacks, and establishing emergency communications for New York. After the Twin Towers come down (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), he calls up the first FEMA urban search and rescue teams, which specialize in rescuing people from collapsed structures. (Block and Cooper 2006, pp. 73-75) He will subsequently personally brief President Bush on three days while response operations are underway. (9/11 Commission 11/17/2003 pdf file)
FEMA Will Help Local Agencies Respond to the Attacks - In May, Bush put FEMA in charge of responding to terrorist attacks in the United States (see May 8, 2001). (White House 5/8/2001; Gerstenzang 5/9/2001) The agency therefore plays a key role in the government’s response to today’s attacks. The emergency response team at its headquarters is activated today, along with all 10 of its regional operations centers. It also activates its federal response plan, which, it states, “brings together 28 federal agencies and the American Red Cross to assist local and state governments in response to national emergencies and disasters.” It deploys eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the debris from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, and four urban search and rescue teams to the Pentagon to assist the response there. These teams consist mainly of local emergency services personnel, and are trained and equipped to handle structural collapses. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 9/11/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 9/11/2001; US National Response Team 2014, pp. 2 pdf file) In the days and weeks following the attacks, it will work with state and city officials to carry out the task of removing the debris from the WTC site. (Block and Cooper 2006, pp. 75)

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.

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)

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)

FEMA issues a release urging “all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities under mutual aid agreements and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.” According to FEMA Director Michael Brown, “The response to Hurricane Katrina must be well coordinated between federal, state and local officials to most effectively protect life and property. We appreciate the willingness and generosity of our Nation’s first responders to deploy during disasters. But such efforts must be coordinated so that fire-rescue efforts are the most effective possible.” The US Fire Administration, part of FEMA, asks that fire and emergency services organizations remain in contact with their local and state emergency management agency officials for updates on requirements in the affected areas. According to R. David Paulison, US Fire Administrator, “It is critical that fire and emergency departments across the country remain in their jurisdictions until such time as the affected states request assistance.… State and local mutual aid agreements are in place as is the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and those mechanisms will be used to request and task resources needed in the affected areas.” The National Incident Management System is being used during the response to Hurricane Katrina and that self-dispatching volunteer assistance could significantly complicate the response and recovery effort. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 8/29/2005)

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)


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