Guys, don't let this slide. We heard the news reports on TV, and then the Feds want FF's to go in a place like that with no means to protect themselves? Bullshit.
FEMA suspends Phoenix team
Armed escorts during hurricane rescues broke rule
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 4, 2005 12:00 AM
The Phoenix Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue team has been suspended from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for deploying armed police officers to protect firefighters in violation of the agency's rules.
As a result, Phoenix officials now are threatening to refuse some of the most dangerous deployments in the future or possibly even pull out of the federal agency altogether, unless the rules are changed to allow teams to bring their own security, even if that means police with guns.
FEMA has been the target of widespread criticism for its perceived slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Assistant Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan said his department also is questioning the federal agency's ability to manage working conditions, security and communications. advertisement
"Our priority has to be the safety of the firefighters we're sending," Khan said.
At issue is a rule in FEMA's Code of Conduct that prohibits Urban Search and Rescue teams from having firearms. Phoenix's team that deployed for Hurricane Katrina relief and again for Hurricane Rita included four police officers deputized as U.S. marshals.
Phoenix police were added to the team about a year ago, and officials say they are essential to protecting firefighters and FEMA's $1.4 million worth of equipment. Firefighters do not carry weapons.
"This is crazy," Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said Monday. "This is a rule that was designed before the world changed, pre-9/11. You can't stand on bureaucracy if we're going to protect and save lives, and that's what these teams do."
Instability in Gulf Coast
FEMA relies on 28 elite teams like Phoenix's across the country to perform specialized rescue operations immediately after terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
After Hurricane Katrina, firefighters faced deployment to areas plagued by looting and lawlessness. Twice, Phoenix's team was confronted by law enforcement officers who refused to let them pass through their communities and told them to "get out or get shot," Gordon said.
Given the instability in the Gulf Coast region, taking police "was as natural as us calling for backup when we go to a house fire and need traffic control," Khan said.
Phoenix's team was demobilized unexpectedly Sept. 26 after members were seen embarking on a helicopter sortie with a loaded shotgun while assigned to help with the aftermath of Rita.
FEMA officials did not return a call for comment on Monday. But in a letter to Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini, dated Sept. 29, the agency said Phoenix was placed on "non-deployment status" essentially for including armed police on the team without approval.
The team cannot be reconsidered for deployment until "we receive an official explanation of your sponsoring agency rationale for allowing these infractions, any corrective actions taken, and assurance that these infractions will not occur in the future," the letter said.
Gordon on Monday sent a letter to FEMA officials requesting that the Code of Conduct "be changed from an unrealistic 'No firearms allowed' to a common-sense 'No firearms allowed except for U.S. marshals integrated into the USAR team.' " Gordon also demanded an apology.
"We are not going to send our firefighters and police officers into harm's way if they don't have adequate security," Gordon said in an interview Monday. "We're not going to endanger our people's lives. I'm not going to take that responsibility."
Phoenix's team was credited with plucking more than 400 Hurricane Katrina survivors from rooftops and freeway overpasses in flooded sections of New Orleans.
The team also was the first out-of-state team to respond to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and members deployed to New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Pulling out of FEMA
If Phoenix pulled out of FEMA entirely, the city would have to return its equipment, which includes medical supplies, communications equipment, tools, and cameras and listening devices that can detect people trapped in rubble.
Khan said that the equipment isn't used in Phoenix on a daily basis and that the city already owns "a lot of the same equipment."
Scott Phelps, Gordon's senior assistant, said the city's stance wasn't to pull out of every FEMA deployment, only to refuse those where the team could be at risk if the "no firearms" rule wasn't changed.
"To apply that sterile rule to the real-life experiences that these men and women were encountering is absurd and really not fair," Phelps said.
"Our question would be: What's the compelling reason not to change the rules? It's not an unreasonable request."
This is insane! Tell them to take their equiptment and shove it up their a$$. I hate desk jockeys who never broke a sweat, never stood a post and never lifted a cheek off their chairs other than to past wind making rules that put responders lives in danger. Can we not find competent people to run these massive pork barrel cluster f@&k agencies? CAN'T WE?????????
FEMA is a joke. A few years ago we had a really bad tornado here. FEMA came in and made huge promises. They told everyone(in the paper and in person) "Don't worry about anything. If you don't have insurance we will take care of you no questions asked." I know several people who went to FEMA for help once they heard that and they were told "Sorry. We can't help you." FEMA is a joke. I think the guy that used to run it is ok but like most federal programs, it's a bloated disgrace. Far more help was offered to people by the Red Cross and various private charities and individuals. Get the government out of the welfare business!!!!!!
That is a joke! We routinely have PD respond to assist us on the nuts-n-bolts calls everyday! How would it look (because "image" is what the desk jockeys respond to) if a deployed USAR group went into anarea w/o security and were attacked/murdered/raped and all the cache was stolen? It absolutley must be changed to allow armed/prepared security to accompany any FEMA-USAR team!
Wow. So now the COPS can't have guns either!
Man, this paranoia over firearms is REALLY getting rediculous!