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10/20/2017 1:01:18 AM
9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 9/7/2005 6:15:57 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/7/2005 6:18:38 PM EDT by Irishfly]
Link to story

Frustrated Firefighters at Atlanta Hold Waiting to Hand Out FEMA Fliers
Despite Application Statement of Non-Operational Role, Some Firefighters May Have Thought Otherwise

Reprinted with Permission, The Salt Lake Tribune

ATLANTA -- Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic.

"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.

The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.

"The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."

One fire chief from Texas agreed that the call was clear to work as community-relations officers. But he wonders why the 1,400 firefighters FEMA attracted to Atlanta aren't being put to better use. He also questioned why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - of which FEMA is a part - has not responded better to the disaster.

The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet." The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.

On Monday, two firefighters from South Jordan and two from Layton headed for San Antonio to help hurricane evacuees there. Four firefighters from Roy awaited their marching orders, crossing their fingers that they would get to do rescue and recovery work, rather than paperwork.

"A lot of people are bickering because there are rumors they'll just be handing out fliers," said Roy firefighter Logan Layne, adding that his squad hopes to be in the thick of the action. "But we'll do anything. We'll do whatever they need us to do."

While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.

"It's a misallocation of resources. Completely," said the Texas firefighter.

"It's just an under-utilization of very talented people," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta. "I was hoping once they saw the level of people . . . they would shift gears a little bit."

Foote said his crews would be better used doing the jobs they are trained to do.

But Louis H. Botta, a coordinating officer for FEMA, said sending out firefighters on community relations makes sense. They already have had background checks and meet the qualifications to be sworn as a federal employee. They have medical training that will prove invaluable as they come across hurricane victims in the field.

A firefighter from California said he feels ill prepared to even carry out the job FEMA has assigned him. In the field, Hurricane Katrina victims will approach him with questions about everything from insurance claims to financial assistance.

"My only answer to them is, '1-800-621-FEMA,' " he said. "I'm not used to not being in the know."

Roy Fire Chief Jon Ritchie said his crews would be a "little frustrated" if they were assigned to hand out phone numbers at an evacuee center in Texas rather than find and treat victims of the disaster.
Also of concern to some of the firefighters is the cost borne by their municipalities in the wake of their absence. Cities are picking up the tab to fill the firefighters' vacancies while they work 30 days for the federal government.

"There are all of these guys with all of this training and we're sending them out to hand out a phone number," an Oregon firefighter said. "They [the hurricane victims] are screaming for help and this day [of FEMA training] was a waste."

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

AP: Firefighters Stuck in Georgia Awaiting Orders

Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Hundreds of firefighters who volunteered to help rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina have instead been playing cards, taking classes on FEMA's history and lounging at an Atlanta airport hotel for days while they await orders.

''On the news every night you hear (hurricane victims say), 'How come everybody forgot us?''' said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa. ''We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer.''
As of Tuesday, some of the firefighters, like Thomas Blomgren of Battle Creek, Mich., had waited at the hotel for four days. Now he and a colleague have been told they may be sent to a hurricane relief camp in South Carolina to do paperwork rather than help the devastated Gulf Coast.

''FEMA hired the best of the best firefighters, got them together and gave them secretary jobs,'' Blomgren said.

He and colleague Steven Richardson said they followed FEMA's advice and brought huge packs filled with special firefighting suits, sleeping bags and lifesaving equipment to survive in harsh conditions for as long as a month. ''But we'd be better off bringing pencils and cell phones,'' Blomgren grumbled.

Tony Russell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency official in charge of the firefighters, said he is trying to get them deployed as fast as he can but wants to make certain they are sent where the need is greatest.

When FEMA called for 2,000 firefighters from across the country, it made it clear the mission was one of community service and outreach -- not firefighting, Russell said. The firefighters are paid by FEMA for their time.

''People are in need,'' Russell said. ''Sometimes you just need to mop the floor if that's what's best for the victims.''

Desk work may be the first priority for some firefighters for now, but the mission's needs could rapidly change, Russell said. Those who are upset, he said, are free to go. ''This is not a draft,'' he said.

Russell said it takes at least two days to process and train the volunteers, who continue to arrive each day in Atlanta for FEMA training. Some 500 firefighters have been sent to needy areas and hundreds more await their marching orders, he said.

In the meantime, the firefighters -- some from as far away as Washington state -- have received vaccines and specialized training, including classes on sexual harassment, the history of FEMA and how to deal with ethnic groups.
Throughout the hotel, burly firefighters in navy blue shirts loafed on couches Tuesday. A few sat outside in the gentle August breeze, enjoying boxed meals.

Kelly Wayne Sisson, a firefighter from La Mesa, Calif., lounged with a candy bar in hand on the floor of the hotel lobby.

''It's been frustrating because we've been here for a couple of days,'' he said. ''But FEMA's a big machine. We'll get sent out when the time is right.''

And they still have a great attitude.


Link Posted: 9/7/2005 7:39:30 PM EDT
This is very timely info for me. Thanks.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 9:35:16 PM EDT
I read about three quarters of that, and I only see one mistake: FEMA has promised to reimburse the firefighters wages for the thirty days. Of course, that doesn't cover any overtime incurred while filling vacancies.........our local department sent two, sad waste of professional firefighters.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 9:45:00 PM EDT
They didn't need firefighters for this shit. Waste of a trained person who could be helping with search and rescue. Grab some people from the superdome and pay them to hand out your flyers. They need the money.
Link Posted: 9/7/2005 10:39:37 PM EDT
What a waste of resources. I know of 4 firefighters from 2 local communities here in Kansas that went....all are senior officers with highly specialized training. fema seems like a bunch of buffoons.
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 7:49:16 AM EDT
We had tornados here a few years ago and everyone said that FEMA was almost worthless. My PD did get some over time money to pay us to patrol the damaged areas. As far as helping the people affected, they came in and promised that they were FEMA and were there to help. Well, very few people saw any help. Instead, the help received came mostly from private groups and individuals.

Fuck FEMA. Close it.
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 4:22:18 PM EDT
Like I posted in one of teh original threads about this, "why do they need EMS and Fire personell for this?"
Is anyone else very frustrated about the total lack of response to call of help? I sent 40-50 emails and the best I got is Red Cross scheduling me for a 2 hour training class in THREE WEEKS! Cripes! Ive been a Paramedic/FF/HAZMAT Sup, ect for over 20 years. Im also hearing nurses that RC called in are being tasked with things like pouring tea. No $hit! Im thinking we need national certs for all EMS, FFs, and cops to avoid state by state requirements in the future as well as a national volunteer call back list.
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 4:51:30 PM EDT
They figured you already went through the background check to get hired, and repaying municipalities would be easier in the long run.

I read the letter that came out in the initial phase from FEMA. I dont understand why these people are suprised. It spelled out the duties in plain text for all to read. I dont agree with the fact the utilization of fire/rescue personnel are being used to pass out information, help with paperwork, and the like. As this Firehouse.com article says......I don't see where you can blame this agency for the lack of communication within a department or a group of people that signed up.
But thats my opinion....
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 5:34:46 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/8/2005 7:19:13 PM EDT by fight4yourrights]
Wanna be a part of this?

New Orleans - Police Begin Confiscating Firearms as Water Recedes

Do you want to sign up with the team that is doing this?
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 6:15:07 PM EDT
To be fair, the FEMA request DID say thats what they would be doing.....
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 6:19:36 PM EDT

New Orleans Begins Confiscating Firearms as Water Recedes

Link Posted: 9/8/2005 6:28:02 PM EDT
Democrat Mayor, Democrat gov, what else would you expect but total disregard for the laws and constitution of the United States?
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 6:46:05 PM EDT
I am just about outta tinfoil.....
Link Posted: 9/8/2005 6:47:16 PM EDT
Its not just firefighters. There are over 100 SWAT cops sitting in Brookhaven MS doing nothing. They came from all over the US expecting to do some good. Most reported directly to Gulfport, but were quickly whisked away. In the mean time, The folks working on the coast are worn out. This is turning into a GAGGLE FU--!
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 7:41:50 AM EDT
Im so pissed off at the overall lack of common sense of the Disaster management.......AAGGGHHHH!!
Day after day I read reports and blogs about the everyday-man/family just trying to survive w/ some dignity, begging for water/food from different agencies just to be shoved off. There are so many professional FF/PM's willing to get in there and get help to these people only to be told to hand-out fliers to people w/ no phones! WTF!! How many of you have taken the FEMA NIMS training (IS200, 300, 700, 800)? THIS is what inter-agency coordination is all about? This whole thing started w/ the Local gov't's failure to plan and spend fed. money appropriately and give the go ahead for outside help to intervene. Now Look at the mess.....the mis-use of specialty teams that have the self-maintaining resources and knowledge/ skills/ abilities to get the job done.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 10:05:28 AM EDT
EXREMELY FRUSTRATING, My dad is down there with Mesa Fire and his crew has been in nothing but meetings and "training" for the past week (they had to go through sexual harrassment training).
We just heard from the 10 guys my department sent down there and they were sent to Austin TX for training and were told that they were going to be split up and spread across the area by themselves (not even in the 2 man teams that were requested), but then were later told that they are going to Corpes Cristy (dont know if its spelled right) to hand out flyers as to what FEMA is about and what FEMA is doing. We also sent a FF/medic down there through State Land to work as a medic and she is on a helicopter running mail for 10hrs a day. Total mismanagement of resources.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 11:41:09 AM EDT
Our MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) went interdivisional and sent about 600 IL FF/Medics down there.

They're spelling the NoLo FF's so they can try and salvage stuff from their own homes.

Sounds like the fed boys are screwin' the pooch on this one.

And yes, I read "non-operational deployment" but figured that meant we wouldn;t be performing structural firefighting. This is like the time when they called the County Structural Collapse team to a small aircraft in a hospital incident, then, when some ambitious DC decided we weren't needed, we were "re-allocated" as a salvage crew... complete with class 3 harnesses and IS commo gear [
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 2:37:05 PM EDT
Well that explains why our FEMA rep had no answers. He told us he was a firefighter from North Carolina. What a huge waste of expertise. Any monkey could do what they have asked these guys to do. Why send firefighters. What a clusterfuck.
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 3:07:21 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/9/2005 3:10:02 PM EDT by rescue]
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 3:22:12 PM EDT
<< not surprised this is coming from the .gov
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 4:42:06 PM EDT
Link Posted: 9/9/2005 7:07:49 PM EDT
Well I just talked to a buddy of mine.....he just got his orders that another 32 person group of VA Task Force II is deploying. I asked if it was for admin duties and he believed not. He has been told that they are replacing a Missourri TF. He has been told that they will be doing "Treat 'em and Street 'em" work. (IV's for dehydrtn, sutures, quick meds, etc.) He also believes they will be doing body recovery. I told him that I doubted that part. I told him to buy a pair of waders before he left, but he feels that they won't be getting in water...... Oh well. Hope he gets along okay.
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