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Public works employees in St. Tammany Parish clean storm drains and ditches to prevent them from clogging during heavy rains. Emergency Operations Center employees go on standby alert. (Schleifstein 8/27/2005)
State officials hold a conference call with emergency preparedness directors for the Southeastern Louisiana parishes to discuss the storm forecasts and state plans. The Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LOHSEP), has already mobilized its crisis action team, although, representative Mark Smith remarks that while they are getting prepared, they are “in a state of flux. Nobody’s real sure exactly what Katrina is going to do.” The office plans to activate its Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning at 7:30 am, with a statewide conference call. (Louisiana 8/26/2005; Schleifstein 8/27/2005)
The Louisiana State Police activates the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge, and opens a toll-free hotline. The center will monitor the path of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, local troops have placed additional troopers on telephone standby in preparations to assist with increased traffic flow. (Louisiana State Police 8/27/2005; Louisiana State Police 8/27/2005)
Around 7 pm this evening, LSU Hurricane Center scientists share their latest prediction models with emergency officials at the Emergency Operations Center in Baton Rouge. On the giant screen looming over the officials, scientists post the sum of all fears: New Orleans will go under. Everyone knows what that means: a major water rescue of untold thousands. (Ripley 9/4/2005) The model predicts that Katrina’s storm surge may weaken and overtop New Orleans’ levees, causing massive flooding of Plaquemines Parish, New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Michoud area, and Mid-City, as well as large parts of Slidell. (Schleifstein 8/27/2005; Bradshaw 8/27/2005) The Times-Picayune will publish the projected storm surge map the next morning. (Times-Picayune 8/28/2005 ) Reportedly, the Center also e-mails their modeling results to state and federal agencies, including the National Hurricane Center. (MSNBC 9/9/2005)
When Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist (and president of the union representing FEMA staff), returns to FEMA’s Emergency Operations Center this evening, he and his colleagues are “aghast” at the lack of preparations taking place, according to a later interview with National Public Radio: “We’d been expecting that, given our reports and so on, that there’d be some extraordinary measures taking place. So when we come in Saturday night and nothing much had happened—you know, we had a few medical teams, a few search teams were in place, but there was no massive effort that we could see. There was no massive effort to organize the city of New Orleans in an organized way that clearly had to be done. There was no massive mobilization of national resources other than the few that were out there. And I think most of us—I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I and a number of my colleagues just—we felt sort of shocked.… You assume that if there’s a fire, you’re gonna pull that lever and—someone will pull the lever, and you assume if you pull the lever that in no time these trucks and sirens are gonna come roaring up to your building and people will jump out and will have hoses and fire extinguishers and rescue equipment and things will be taken care of. Well, you sort of imagine now if your building catches fire and you pull that lever and nothing happens, the lever comes off in your hand, there’s nothing there; that’s, I think, how we felt.” Senior FEMA officials deny Bosner’s claim, although their denial reflects an expectation that state and local officials will handle the emergency. “We pleaded and informed state and local officials of the severity of this and encouraged everyone to take it seriously,” Russ Knocke, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff representative, will later contend, after asserting that, “Without question, there was a significant amount of recognition and appreciation for the magnitude of this storm.” (National Public Radio 9/16/2005)
Inside FEMA’s National Emergency Operations Center this morning, “None of the things that [are] supposed to be happening at the national level are happening. Nobody [is] mobilizing extra National Guard troops or organizing buses to help evacuate New Orleans,” Leo Bosner, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist, will later claim. (Bosner is president of the union representing FEMA staff.) According to Bosner, at one point today, he looks around and counts only 12 people in the office: “We [are] sitting around and somebody [says], you know, ‘Where are the buses? Where are the resources to get these people out of here?’ And I think we all just felt pretty despondent, let down, kind of numb about the whole thing.”
(National Public Radio 9/16/2005) FEMA Director Michael Brown, however, will paint a very different picture of FEMA’s preparation to President Bush (see
(10:00-11:00 am) August 28, 2005), and to the public (see (8:05 am) August 28, 2005) later today.
Note - Bosner will be inconsistent regarding exactly when this conversation about buses takes place. He reportedly tells the New York Times that it occurs on Friday. (Lipton et al. 9/11/2005) However, given that by his own reports, he and other staff members became focused on the threat to Louisiana on Friday night and Saturday morning (National Public Radio 9/16/2005) , it appears more likely that this conversation takes place on Sunday morning.
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)
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:
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.
FEMA’s Hurricane Liaison Team is onsite and working closely with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.
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.
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.
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.
FEMA has pre-staged Rapid Needs Assessment teams in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
FEMA has deployed nine Urban Search and Rescue task forces and incident support teams from Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri.
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.
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)
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