T Nation

Firefighters and FEMA

http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_3004197
Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA
By Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune
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.

Damn…that is whack.

Sounds like they didn’t really want help or they are really trying to stall rescue efforts for whatever reason? It’s becoming quite the buzz.

Why FEMA turned away help
Mon Sep 5th, 2005

For days after the disaster, help and volunteers of all sorts headed for New Orleans with relief supplies and expertise, only to be stopped and turned away by FEMA.

Last night, one of my friends joined our regular Sunday chat. He had just come home from New Orleans with his group of volunteer firefighters from Houston, after they had waited outside New Orleans since Tuesday for FEMA to let them help in New Orleans, or use them somewhere else in the stricken region.

FEMA’s “reason” – they wouldn’t let anyone in “until the National Guard has secured the city.” The details of his experience are below the fold.

Ducktape’s diary ::
Bill is a member of a volunteer firefighter team in the Houston area. He and his team have a lot of experience helping after hurricanes. And they also have special expertise – a lot of them work for a living on oil infrastructure and repairs. Bill is a professional logistics expert whose assignments have included getting a client’s tsunami-flattened distribution facility back operating within a couple of weeks, and pre-invasion logistics work in Kuwait.

On Monday night, his group assembled their rescue equipment and tools, and packed them into their boats along with all the emergency supplies they could carry. By Tuesday morning, they were almost to New Orleans. “We were stopped at gunpoint by FEMA and told to turn back,” he told me. When I asked, he clarified that they did not point the guns at them, but they were carrying and displaying their weapons.

FEMA told him that no one was allowed to enter the city to help “until it was secured by the National Guard.” The Houston team asked if they could wait. The FEMA staff told them yes, but that they shouldn’t expect anything to change.

So they set up camp in the parking area where they had been stopped, and they waited. By Thursday night, when they were still waiting in the same place, some of the team returned to Houston. The rest decided to wait longer. And still nothing changed, so the remaining team members returned to Houston on Saturday night.

Needless to say, Bill is livid about this. I asked him why they had not been sent to some of the other communities in the hurricane-stricken area where security was not as much of an issue.

“We asked,” he told me, “but they said that our expertise was more needed in the New Orleans area.” The fucking catch-22 – they were needed in New Orleans, so they weren’t allowed to go elsewhere, but they weren’t allowed to go into New Orleans, so the upshot was that they did nothing except sit and wait, and then go home in frustration.

What had him frosted more than anything else is that they also have very specific expertise, as individual professionals as well as a firefighter team, in dealing with damage to oil infrastructure in the aftermath of a natural disaster. “We’ve been doing this more than 10 years,” he told me. “We are not amateurs, and we have an enormous amount of experience with areas which have been hit by hurricanes.”

“A lot of the damaged oil facilities aren’t even in the city of New Orleans itself,” he told me, “so they weren’t in an area that you would think would have looters or security problems that were different from any hurricane we’ve worked in. We’re used to arriving and immediately going to work.”

They didn’t just sit and wait – they kept going back to the FEMA people who were holding them up and making suggestions about how and where they could be useful. But FEMA had no interest in listening, and the line never changed. “You can wait if you wish, but don’t expect any change anytime soon. Or you can go home.”

You know all that “help is on the way” BS that was spouted? A lot of it wasn’t just “on the way” – it was already there, but blocked from doing anything because of FEMA.

We’ve heard so much of this over this past week, of help and supplies arriving and not being allowed in, of the USS Bataan cruising off the city with helicopters, medical facilities, and supplies, but doing nothing because they hadn’t been asked to help.

I thought my outrage meter was already off the dial, but I discovered it had new levels when I heard the first-hand account from a friend who had left work for a week to bring specific expertise to the disaster, and who was among the thousands of such people blocked by FEMA and their incompetent bureaucracy from doing anything at all.

[quote]JustTheFacts wrote:
Sounds like they didn’t really want help or they are really trying to stall rescue efforts for whatever reason? It’s becoming quite the buzz.

Why FEMA turned away help
Mon Sep 5th, 2005

For days after the disaster, help and volunteers of all sorts headed for New Orleans with relief supplies and expertise, only to be stopped and turned away by FEMA.

Last night, one of my friends joined our regular Sunday chat. He had just come home from New Orleans with his group of volunteer firefighters from Houston, after they had waited outside New Orleans since Tuesday for FEMA to let them help in New Orleans, or use them somewhere else in the stricken region.

FEMA’s “reason” – they wouldn’t let anyone in “until the National Guard has secured the city.” The details of his experience are below the fold.

Ducktape’s diary ::
Bill is a member of a volunteer firefighter team in the Houston area. He and his team have a lot of experience helping after hurricanes. And they also have special expertise – a lot of them work for a living on oil infrastructure and repairs. Bill is a professional logistics expert whose assignments have included getting a client’s tsunami-flattened distribution facility back operating within a couple of weeks, and pre-invasion logistics work in Kuwait.

On Monday night, his group assembled their rescue equipment and tools, and packed them into their boats along with all the emergency supplies they could carry. By Tuesday morning, they were almost to New Orleans. “We were stopped at gunpoint by FEMA and told to turn back,” he told me. When I asked, he clarified that they did not point the guns at them, but they were carrying and displaying their weapons.

FEMA told him that no one was allowed to enter the city to help “until it was secured by the National Guard.” The Houston team asked if they could wait. The FEMA staff told them yes, but that they shouldn’t expect anything to change.

So they set up camp in the parking area where they had been stopped, and they waited. By Thursday night, when they were still waiting in the same place, some of the team returned to Houston. The rest decided to wait longer. And still nothing changed, so the remaining team members returned to Houston on Saturday night.

Needless to say, Bill is livid about this. I asked him why they had not been sent to some of the other communities in the hurricane-stricken area where security was not as much of an issue.

“We asked,” he told me, “but they said that our expertise was more needed in the New Orleans area.” The fucking catch-22 – they were needed in New Orleans, so they weren’t allowed to go elsewhere, but they weren’t allowed to go into New Orleans, so the upshot was that they did nothing except sit and wait, and then go home in frustration.

What had him frosted more than anything else is that they also have very specific expertise, as individual professionals as well as a firefighter team, in dealing with damage to oil infrastructure in the aftermath of a natural disaster. “We’ve been doing this more than 10 years,” he told me. “We are not amateurs, and we have an enormous amount of experience with areas which have been hit by hurricanes.”

“A lot of the damaged oil facilities aren’t even in the city of New Orleans itself,” he told me, “so they weren’t in an area that you would think would have looters or security problems that were different from any hurricane we’ve worked in. We’re used to arriving and immediately going to work.”

They didn’t just sit and wait – they kept going back to the FEMA people who were holding them up and making suggestions about how and where they could be useful. But FEMA had no interest in listening, and the line never changed. “You can wait if you wish, but don’t expect any change anytime soon. Or you can go home.”

You know all that “help is on the way” BS that was spouted? A lot of it wasn’t just “on the way” – it was already there, but blocked from doing anything because of FEMA.

We’ve heard so much of this over this past week, of help and supplies arriving and not being allowed in, of the USS Bataan cruising off the city with helicopters, medical facilities, and supplies, but doing nothing because they hadn’t been asked to help.

I thought my outrage meter was already off the dial, but I discovered it had new levels when I heard the first-hand account from a friend who had left work for a week to bring specific expertise to the disaster, and who was among the thousands of such people blocked by FEMA and their incompetent bureaucracy from doing anything at all.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/5/105538/7048[/quote]

This story is a fabrication.

Fema does not carry guns. I just asked them. I never saw a fema rep. with a weapon here or anywhere else. I am sure you will find some reference that says they are allowed to but they are not doing so in NO.

Fema tracked resources and deployed them as they came in. Sometimes you have to do what you are told during an emergency not what you want. Doesn’t “bill” the volunteer fireman know that. Seems like he may exist only in the authors mind.

Why didn’t the “experts in oil infrastructure” go to Lake Charles? Wouldn’t that make more sense. Alternately they could have staged in Baton Rouge with the rest of the industry. Surely there clients would have directed them to do so. Seems like NO would not be the place to go if you wanted to get to a rig, a pipeline or a terminal.

Why do you have such a hard on for those that are trying to help people down here? Reading this type of bullshit is demoralizing and devisive. It pisses those off who are gullible enough to fall for it and it angers those who are busting ass trying to help. Give it a rest and stop acting like self indulgent brat and try to support the good people working in NO and those they are trying to help.

[quote]hedo wrote:

This story is a fabrication.

Fema does not carry guns. I just asked them. I never saw a fema rep. with a weapon here or anywhere else. I am sure you will find some reference that says they are allowed to but they are not doing so in NO.

Fema tracked resources and deployed them as they came in. Sometimes you have to do what you are told during an emergency not what you want. Doesn’t “bill” the volunteer fireman know that. Seems like he may exist only in the authors mind.

Why didn’t the “experts in oil infrastructure” go to Lake Charles? Wouldn’t that make more sense. Alternately they could have staged in Baton Rouge with the rest of the industry. Surely there clients would have directed them to do so. Seems like NO would not be the place to go if you wanted to get to a rig, a pipeline or a terminal.

Why do you have such a hard on for those that are trying to help people down here? Reading this type of bullshit is demoralizing and devisive. It pisses those off who are gullible enough to fall for it and it angers those who are busting ass trying to help. Give it a rest and stop acting like self indulgent brat and try to support the good people working in NO and those they are trying to help.

[/quote]

You mean JustTheFacts isn’t posting just the facts? Wow, what a shocker!

I don’t understand peoples motivation for posting false stories.

Of course some people fervently believe the Illuminati run the world.

I get a headache when I try to understand people with paranoid delusions.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
I don’t understand peoples motivation for posting false stories.

Of course some people fervently believe the Illuminati run the world.

I get a headache when I try to understand people with paranoid delusions.[/quote]

And why they just won’t shut the fuck up and lend a hand…

Agrivating

Sounds like “ductape” better peel the tape off his eyes.

The Bataan wasn’t cruising around waiting for something to do. It began relief operations last week. Along with a few other military assets as described below.

(caution satire follows)

Wasn’t “Daily Kos” set up by the Iranian intelligence service to dupe the American Left. I mean everyone knows the Iranians are secretly controlled by the Mossad who report directly to the trilateral commission that is headed by the Illuminati of which Bush Sr. is the Grand Imperial Emperor. Seriously I read it on the internet. Anyone with any intelligence knows this to be true.

Begin:

September 5, 2005: As of Friday, September 2, 2005, a substantial amount of U.S. military power has been committed to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans and around the Gulf Coast.

The Navy is sending numerous ships from the East Coast with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Harry Truman steaming to the region. Truman will act as a command-and-control platform for the ad hoc fleet once it comes on station by early Sunday, providing a floating staging base for helicopter operations. Normally carrying up to 80 warplanes, Truman will instead carry additional helicopters from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station to support relief efforts.

The Truman will join a fleet that includes amphibious ships USS Bataan (LHD 5), USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS Shreveport (LPD 12), USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Grapple (ARS 53), USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and USNS Arctic (TAOE 8) in the Gulf of Mexico. USS Bataan (LHD-5), an amphibious assault ship, began relief operations Tuesday night. Embarked helicopter squadrons have rescued over 200 stranded personnel in two days of flying. USS Whidbey Island, a LSD (Landing Ship DOC) is bring a movable causeway to the region; many bridges have been wiped out.

Military hospital ship USNS Comfort is departing Baltimore on September 2 and expected to arrive in the Gulf (of Mexico) by September 8. Comfort will provide a 1,000 bed hospital and 12 operating rooms off-shore.

On the ground, at least 30,000 National Guard troops will move into the region to provide support to the relief efforts, including providing security. At least 4,200 National Guard Military Police deployed to New Orleans over the next three days to help restore order. So far, Guardsmen from West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Utah, New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington state, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan and Arkansas have been sent to the stricken region or are awaiting deployment orders. In addition, the Army is preparing for the possibility of deploying larger number of active-duty troops to the region. It had placed 7,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division on alert. The troops would deploy to New Orleans to provide crowd control and site protection. Critics of the relief effort are pointing out nearly 8,000 Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana are currently serving in Iraq and their absence has sorely affected relief operations.

The Marines have dispatched at least ten CH-53 helicopters, two CH-64 helicopters, three UH-1s, and an AH-1 gunship to the region, from drawing bases in North Carolina, Willow Grove, PA, Marietta, GA, and Bell Chase, LA.

In the air, the Air Guard is providing C-130 transports into the region, and Air Force crews are working to make New Orleans International Airport and Lafayette Regional Airport operational for supply flights by C-17 and C-5 transport plans. The 347th Rescue wing says its helicopters had rescued 211 people in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Air Force had a U-2 fly over the Gulf Coast, snapping high-resolution pictures to help determine the extent of damage.

End: