VIEWS: 20 PAGES: 5 POSTED ON: 7/15/2011
FEMA The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was and is still in charge of identifying all housing solutions and solving the problem that faces thousands of families displaced by hurricane Katrina. FEMA’s mission is being helped by different organizations around the country including state parks, military bases, and all available housing stock. The Carnival Cruise line has even offered to supply some of their cruise ships to temporarily help house the displaced victims of hurricane Katrina. Two of these cruise ships are being sent to Galveston, Texas where they will be able to provide shelter for up to 5,200 evacuees. A third ship is preparing to move from Charleston, North Carolina to Mobile, Alabama to help with the relief effort. This ship will be able to hold up to 1,000 people. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also considering other ways to manage the growing crisis along the Gulf Coast. Deploying thousands of FEMA trailer homes to make up little “trailer parks” is just one option. Some hotels and motels are being contracted by FEMA to provide shelter for some of the displaced families. Buying vacant property and building houses is another option for FEMA. These are just a few more ways that FEMA is trying to conquer the daunting task that they have been challenged with by hurricane Katrina. The Carnival Cruise line has offered three of its cruise ships to be used as temporary housing for thousands of hurricane Katrina’s victims. The deal between FEMA and the U. S. Government have been highly criticized by local and other government officials. The $236 million dollar deal could have been drastically reduced when you consider that the country of Greece was willing to let us use two of their ships free of charge. The excuse given by FEMA for denying this offer was that they did not know how long it would take for us to get the ships from Greece. If these ships were at full capacity for six months, with a total of 7,116 evacuees, the price per evacuee would range from $1,000 to $1,500 a week. A seven-day Caribbean cruise can be booked for $599 per person. The six-month deal with the Carnival Cruise line for three full service cruise ships, which now sit mostly empty in the Gulf of Mexico, has been highly criticized by lawmaker and government officials from both political parties as a direct example of wasteful spending in Katrina related efforts. Senators Tom Coburn (R- Oklahoma) and Barack Obama (D- Illinois) stated, “Even if the Carnival contract were a good one- and it most certainly is not- it is inexplicable why FEMA would fail to implement the Greek government’s offer of free cruise ships.” President George W. Bush took the blame today for the slow response to hurricane Katrina. Questions were raised among various government agencies about the United States preparedness for terrorist attacks or another major natural disaster like hurricane Katrina. “Katrina exposed serious response capability at all levels of government,” Bush said. “And to the extent the federal government did not do its job right, I take responsibility.” This comment came just one day after the resignation of Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown was the person receiving most of the criticism for the slow response to Katrina. President Bush was criticized also for the pace of the relief efforts, and for praising his FEMA director (Michael Brown) during a tour of the Gulf Coast region. FEMA is not only using cruise ships to house the victims of hurricane Katrina, they are also moving camper trailers into state parks along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama. Evacuees with transportation are being allowed to stay at the parks, free of charge if they are able to get there. Lawmakers questioned if moving trailers into state parks would damage the parkland or harm the natural beauty of the parks. By September 9th, about 1,371 evacuees were living in 517 Federal Emergency management Agency- furnished mobile homes or facilities on the campgrounds of thirteen state parks. On September 15, only seen percent of the 1,347 trailers in the parks had evacuees actually living in them, and only 290 of the trailers were ready for occupants. Alabama Governor, Bob Riley, opened all of Alabama’s state parks as emergency shelters for anyone needing assistance. When these parks were surveyed by FEMA officials, they received conflicting information referring to the parks actual use as a shelter. According to DeSoto State Park Superintendent Tim Whitehead, FEMA began moving trailers into the park. Approximately fifty trailers have been brought into the park but have not been placed at their specific campsites. “Right now, we are as in the dark as anybody else. On Friday, we were under the impression that we were not getting any trailers from FEMA and now we have,” (The Times Journal) Whitehead said. The number of hurricane evacuees at Alabama state parks has almost tripled over the last few weeks. On Monday, September 12, the first batch of trailers for hurricane evacuees arrived at Monte Sano State Park campground (The Huntsville Times). The campground has set aside thirty-eight campsites. This was done at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Workers were hard at work leveling the campers, filling up propane tanks, setting up steps, and hooking up sewer and electrical lines. This process could take work crews anywhere from five to seven days for each trailer. There is only one campground not participating in the relief program; Gulf State Park remains extremely vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Military bases along the Gulf Coast are another option that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has to help with the growing housing crisis. State Representative Thomas C. Petrone called on the President and Congress to direct FEMA to put military bases, being considered for closure by the Federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission, to use. Petrone says that military bases have a sound infrastructure and are capable of housing large numbers of people for a long period of time. They provide beds, showers, kitchens and working plumbing and electricity already in place. “With FEMA on the Gulf Coast struggling to get evacuees anywhere their basic needs can be met, I am seeing a connection. That connection is to use military bases now and any time in the future where people become totally uprooted from their homes,” Petrone stated (www.pahouse.com). His plan urges the Federal Government to give FEMA the power to use certain military bases around the country for crises in the future such as another natural disaster, terrorist attacks, and other federal emergencies where people are forced out of their homes.
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