Continuing to address shortcomings identified in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has announced new "Recovery Strategies" in two key areas of disaster operations: Shelter and Housing, and Debris Removal.
Sheltering and Housing
While this strategy focuses on hurricane evacuations, FEMA points out that it could also apply to "no-notice" disasters, like earthquakes. FEMAs new Sheltering and Housing strategy develops protocols for the rapid relocation of evacuees and persons left homeless in three types of shelters, depending on their individual needs:
- Congregate Shelters used for temporary sheltering of large groups of people. Examples include schools, stadiums, churches, or church-sponsored facilities.
- Temporary Shelters for short term lodging of individuals with additional privacy. Examples include hotels and motels.
- Temporary Housing to provide longer term accommodations. Examples include single- and multi-family homes, apartments, manufactured homes and trailers.
As part of its sheltering and housing protocol, FEMA has also developed methods for preventing program abuse and fraud, problems which plagued FEMA during the Katrina recovery. Under the new policies, FEMA will assign each disaster victim a unique code, which will be used to qualify them for extended shelter and housing assistance beyond the initial rescue and evacuation period.
Before any lasting recovery effort can begin, debris must be removed from disaster scenes. FEMA acknowledged that it was not adequately prepared to deal with the volume of debris generated by a disaster like Katrina. In the twelve months following the storms landfall, nearly 45 million cubic yards of debris have been removed from Louisiana parishes alone.
By far the greatest shortcoming identified by FEMA in the area of debris removal during Katrina was simply that nobody knew exactly who was supposed to do what. Correcting that problem is the goal of FEMAs new Debris Removal strategy, which according to FEMA:
- Summarizes the key actions to be taken (or considered) both pre- and post-landfall;
- Establishes the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of federal, state and local governments, as they apply to debris removal management and coordination; and
- Outlines direct federal assistance to be provided and the terms of its delivery.
In order to provide the timeliest response, the FEMA policy calls for state and local governments to assume the main responsibility for planning, coordinating and managing debris removal operations, with their efforts to be reimbursed by the federal government.
In cases of catastrophic devastation, like that caused by Katrina, or in any case in which the debris removal capabilities of state and local governments are overwhelmed, the FEMA policy calls for direct federal assistance by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
Similar to those for housing and shelter, FEMA contends that its strategy for debris removal can be applied to rescue and recovery efforts required for any type of disaster.