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Ex-FEMA Chief Michael Brown Defends Disaster Response

Image: Ex-FEMA Chief Michael Brown Defends Disaster Response
(Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 29 September 2017 03:57 PM

The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency chided the media on Friday for its coverage of the federal disaster response, saying that "assessments and repairs take time."

"Only after the storm has passed and it's safe to move in, does the response actually start," Michael Brown, former undersecretary of Homeland Security who directed FEMA under President George W. Bush, wrote for The Hill. "The first item on the responders' list is to assess the damage to the ports, docks, electrical grid, runways and air traffic control. Once that assessment is done, any repairs must be made to that infrastructure so it's functional."

He notes that repairs cannot begin under unsafe conditions, and that "whether we like it or not, the reality is it takes time to do all of the assessments and repairs before you can actually start airlifting or offloading material, supplies, equipment and personnel."

President Donald Trump's administration has taken some criticism for its perceived slow response to Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico and nearby U.S. territories.

Brown adds, "It's not a matter of government moving fast or slow, it's a matter of fact that assessments and repairs take time. On an island like Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, that time is expanded because of the limited accessibility — you only have ports and runways. It's not like there's a giant interstate highway leading directly in San Juan or St. Thomas."

He writes that "the media must learn and recognize" that people affected by disasters will often grow frustrated with the government's response before they can begin relief efforts.

"The media naturally gravitates to those gripping stories of peoples' frustrations and anger. That is not a fair representation of everything taking place in a disaster zone," Brown says.

Though he notes that "people rightfully become frustrated" after a disaster, "everyone has to keep that frustration in perspective. The cavalry is on its way."

He concludes by saying that "all Americans — media included — must learn the cavalry has to clear a path to its intended destination. And that takes time. We must and should be empathetic to disaster victims. We must likewise recognize that assisting them and helping them get back to normal, takes time."

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The former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency chided the media on Friday for its coverage of the federal disaster response, saying that "assessments and repairs take time."
FEMA, michael brown, defends, disaster, response
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2017-57-29
Friday, 29 September 2017 03:57 PM
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