“Sweet Jesus, There’s Always A Tape”*

Ken AshfordDisastersLeave a Comment

* Spoken by a Washington Post reporter in the film "Courage Under Fire"

And so there is with Katrina.  NPR got a hold of several taped conference calls between local, state, and federal authorities to discuss emergency plans, evacuations, supplies, coordination, etc.  You should listen to them.

Shakespeare’s Sister describes one such conference call, the last call before Katrina hit:

Jeff Smith, the [federal] deputy director of Louisiana’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness . . . tells them to request everything they need on some computer program designed for that purpose, and they’ll get it. The next call doesn’t happen until Sept. 9, and when [Jefferson Parish Emergency Manager] Maestri asks where the FEMA generator packs they were promised are, Smith tells him “that’s a good question,” and when Maestri then angrily complains about how FEMA ballyhooed during planning exercises that they would be ready in a moment’s notice but “now that we’re on our knees” they’re nowhere to be found, Smith assures him “there will be time for that kind of rhetoric later.” It’s really unbelievable.