During Hurricane Katrina, the media blasted FEMA for not immediately getting involved. During Superstorm/Frankenstorm/Hurricane/Whatever Sandy, FEMA was first on the scene, for better or worse.
So, what’s the problem? The problem is that FEMA is NOT a First Response agency. FEMA is the last level in a Disaster Relief pyramid. Primary responsibility lies with your local Emergency Managers, at the City/township level. When their resources are overwhelmed, the County/Parish is supposed to step in.
Once those assets/resources are committed, the next step is State Emergency Management, and finally FEMA.
Unfortunately, politics being what they are, people have become accustomed to expecting all things from the Federal level of government. During Katrina, FEMA waited until requested by the State, and caught media hell for it.
During Sandy, FEMA leaped right onto the front lines. It’s too early to tell if this was a good idea or not.
Because of reliance on FEMA to solve all problems, local Emergency Management agencies don’t develop disaster plans for their own resources anymore. Why throw all of your assets at a disaster when you can just whistle up FEMA and they’ll throw their resources at the problem for you?
While having virtually unlimited resources to throw at a situation might be a good thing, do you really want the Federal Government micro-managing your disaster response, right down to the street level?