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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 9/7/2005 4:31:49 PM EDT
For those of us old enough to remember "duck and cover", I had an interesting thought regarding the former Civil Defense system.

Under Civil Defense, which was a civillian group for the most part, there were volunteers in every city and state across the land. They had their own local plans, their own communications, their own food and water storage components. And they were ready at a moments notice for a variety of situations.

Now on the other hand, we have FEMA who generally replaced the functions of the Civil Defense era responders. From what we have seen in the past week, there appears to be rooom for improvement.

So, was there validity to our old Civil Defense system? If it had been in place for Katrina, do you think the residents of New Orleans would have faired any better? Is this something FEMA should look at a bit closer?

Link Posted: 9/7/2005 4:39:02 PM EDT
You have it wrong FEMA is basically just a agency that manages mostly outside assets in response to a disaster.

Local governments are still the primary civil authorities and are supposed to provide food, water, security, ect. in the immediate aftermath.

The failure in this disaster was on the local and state level. FEMA did its job contrary to what the press would have people believe.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 4:40:58 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/7/2005 4:43:56 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
The problems with this response, at least as I see them were not a FEMA problem, rather a city and state problem. Heck, the mayor didn't even follow his own city's disaster plan. Why were all the buses that were avialable not used to evacuate the residents who had no transportation? That was in the plan. Why were the designated city shelters in N.O. not stocked with adequate food and water? Again, that's a city issue. Why was the Red Cross not permitted to enter LA by the governor immediately after the hurricane? That's a state issue.

The FEMA response seemed to be by the book. FEMA isn't and never has been a first response organization. Rather, they come along in later stages after the local and state resources have been exhausted. The initial response is the job of local and state agencies, so I would not expect a significant FEMA force on hand in the first couple of days. It obviously takes them longer to mobilize and move.

So again, had the state and local agencies been better prepared, I don't think there would be any criticism of FEMA. FEMA did what they always did. It's just the lack of prepardness at the local level that made things look much worse than normal. Had the evacuations been carried out according to the plan, had shelters been stocked according to plan, had the governor mobilized the national guard and allowed the Red Cross in sooner, there would have been far fewer problems to begin with.

Rather than FEMA doing what it normally does (supporting the state and locals), it seems the state and locals in this case were woefully unprepared and looking to FEMA to not only carry out their part of the mission, but their's as well. This is where the problem lies.



ETA....I am a deputy director of a local EMA agency. FEMA and local EMA's are not all that different than the old Civil Defense system. It just uses a new name and is better funded and organized. But the way I see it, I am FEMA on the local level. The initial response is my job. If there's fuck up's at the start of an incident, that's my fault, not FEMA's.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 4:53:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/7/2005 4:55:12 PM EDT by M38A1]
Max-Mike and CH,

I wasn't trying to pin 'blame' on any party. And thank you for providing the true function of FEMA. I guess they are a "Management / Coordination" function rather than the first responders?

What I was trying to solicit was whether or not the old Civil Defense system might have been prepared to handle a situation of this type. Based on what I remember, they were well equipped with local, on-site volunteers with the basics of food, shelter, water and communications.

And based on the fact that they were on-site with these resources, could they have averted much of the mysery that happened in the first hours of the event?
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 5:11:05 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/7/2005 5:17:11 PM EDT by Charging_Handle]
That part really hasn't changed. There's still local agencies that carry out those functions. Some are paid now but there are also still volunteers in many areas.

In my area, we have an EMA agency that oversees our jurisdiction. Our EMA really isn't a large entity in and of itself. The area volunteer fire/rescue, law enforcement, EMS, etc are all the workhorses of the EMA. Our EMA is little more than an EOC and a small group of managers. The other local agencies I mentioned are the real arm of the agency. The EMA just directs and manages the activities and prepares and adopts plans. But we have tons of volunteers involved. Examples are volunteer firefighters, HAM radio groups that act as weather spotters and provide emergency communication. Every county/city has an EMA organization and they incorporate all the local resources that are relevent into that system.

I am a bit too young to remember the full details of how CD differed from FEMA and the local EMA's we see today. But FWIW, there's still tons of old CD materials stored at the area EOC from when they used the CD title vs the newer FEMA/EMA titles.

It appears to me that the biggest difference is simply the change in names, as well as better organization and funding. They both served (and continue to serve) many of the same functions. I may be able to ask some of the "old timers" who were involved with this stuff back in the 60's and 70's and see what the exact differences were.

So to answer your question, no, I don't think it would have necessarily made a difference. The New Orleans EMA had tons of stuff at it's disposal, inccluding all the things you mentioned. But modern EMA's use many paid agencies who are far better trained and equipped. So in that regard, modern EMA's should be far more capable of dealing with these sorts of incidents.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 5:41:10 PM EDT
my grandfather was in civil defense, and the volunteer fire department. my dad has a couple of those yellow gieger counters with the probe on a wire that run on 4 D cells
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 5:47:07 PM EDT
My Grandfather was Civil Defense during WWII, IIRC.
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