In last six months two major floods have affected two major plains states, Iowa and North Dakota. When the flood waters hit Cedar Rapids and Fargo the people of Iowa and North Dakota took immediate and community oriented action. What they did not do was wait on FEMA to save them.
Fargo, ND is still fighting the flood waters; Iowa must be dried out by now, right? Wrong, Cedar Rapids is still rebuilding. I was amazed to read on USA TODAY that people are living in FEMA trailers, they are still unhappy and they still need help. Ok, so where is the Katrinaesque out cry for Cedar Rapids or Fargo? Where is the endless endless play by play of how these cities are trying to survive after being underwater? I do not think we will hear it. In fact, I'm sure we won't.
On March 16 DHS Secretary Napolitano said the following to the International Association of Fire Fighters, "And as you know, FEMA is not a first responder. You are the first responders. And FEMA is there to back you up and not to be a substitute for emergency workers and fire fighters and the like." DHS Press Release
Amazingly no one said a word. The same people who were lambasting FEMA up until noon on Jan 20, 2009 have been oddly silent. Had Secretary Chertoff made this statement he, along with the Bush Administration, would have been crucified in the media in the usual fashion.
Do I agree that FEMA is not a first responder? Yes. Do I believe that the previous administration could have said that? No. We'll see how FEMA and DHS are treated the next time people are in true need. I suspect the news coverage will be quite different.