Emergency and Disaster Management: Hurricanes Research Paper

Pages: 11 (3413 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Weather

According to the director of the Disaster Recovery Unit in the Office of Community Development, Michael Taylor, "There are still thousands of homeowners who have applied to the program and are awaiting their awards" (as qtd. In Muhammad, 2007).

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FEMA also undertook considerable efforts to provide housing to the individuals and households that had been displaced by the hurricane. Among other efforts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency also provided accommodations to individuals in the hotels as they were at displaced from corner to corner in the country. However, it was found out that even though FEMA was responsible for paying hotel costs, it did not call the hotels for the collection of registration information regarding the individuals to whom the hotel accommodations were provided. The unavailability of this information meant that it was not possible for FEMA to identify individuals who were housed in hotels. Thus, "FEMA was unable to determine whether rental assistance should be provided to individuals to whom the federal government was providing free lodging" (Kutz & Ryan, 2006). Millions of dollars were paid by FEMA in expedited and housing assistance to registrations that included the names and SSN of individuals imprisoned in federal and state prisons during the storms. Moreover, FEMA is also to be blamed for improperly paying the individuals twice for their accommodation i.e. It not only paid their hotels but also paid for their rental assistance at the same time (Kutz & Ryan, 2006).

Research Paper on Emergency and Disaster Management: Hurricanes Assignment

Road Home program grants are not under the administration of Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, both programs have been acknowledged as unreliable and were criticized for their "slow funding, long bureaucratic processes, lack of communication, and empathy towards the urgent needs of the people" (Muhammad, 2007). Local leaders were made to work out and organize large amounts of paperwork before FEMA conformity to compensate. Moreover, the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness carried out a concluding autonomous assessment of every project's projected costs before the release of the money. When Col. Jeff Smith, head of the Gov.'s Homeland Security Office was questioned regarding this procedure, he stated that his office was looking at ways for the reimbursement process to pick pace. However, at the same time, he also stressed that it was important for his office to perform checks on the projects before releasing any money (Muhammad, 2007).

Though the audits of the state could not uncover any fraud, they did identify a number of cases where the charging of the prices was not supported by market value. The federal, state and local officials continued to finger point each other for the delays. New Orleans officials also documented their complaints about Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (Muhammad, 2007).

Other nations from abroad also showed their concern to the distressed Americans by providing hundreds of millions of donations in order to support and help out the U.S. federal government get survivors back on their feet. $5 million were given by China. Brunei and Bangladesh gave $1 million. Rwanda poured in $100,000. Even Afghanistan donated $99,800. The biggest donor was the United Arab Emirates who contributed more than $99 million. Thus, thirty six countries and international organizations donated $126 million to the U.S. State Department by the end of 2005. Some countries including Canada, Kuwait, India, Turkey sent their donations to the American Red Cross or the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina Fund directly. In the similar fashion, instead of trusting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), musicians and artists including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Ludacris gave their donations "directly to organizations who they felt were truly servicing the displaced and heartbroken people" (Muhammad, 2007).

Thus, it was crystal clear that FEMA had not been successful in gaining the trust of the people due to the mismanagement and failed administration. Instead of helping out the devastated people, it seems that FEMA was incapable of solving their problems. In simple words, it couldn't manage such a big catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Ike.

The Use of Debit Cards

The Government Purchase Card Program was intended towards saving the Government money so that expensive paperwork could be avoided and the method of making purchases could be expedited. According to the data of the United States Bank, the cardholders of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) used these purchase cards "to make 851,511 purchases, totaling approximately $458 million in calendar year (CY) 2005" (Levinson, 2007).

As a reaction to Hurricane Katrina, Congress approved agencies to make certain purchasing requirements more efficient for procurement of provisions or services to hold up rescue and relief operations. Therefore, the Office of Management and Budget and Health and Human Services (HHS) issued rules and regulations concerning management controls for the implementation of impermanent changes to regular purchasing requirements. It was later identified by the HHS officials that of the total purchases in 2005, 1,139 purchases that totaled $2,109,173 were associated to Hurricane Katrina for the period of 28th August, 2005 through 14th December, 2005 (Levinson, 2007).

Moreover, the prepaid/debit cards also helped in the disaster relief. As already mentioned Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, Texas, in 2008 as a Category 2 hurricane with persistent winds of 110 miles per hour. The American Red Cross coordinated with various other disaster relief organizations so that food and shelter could be provided to hundreds of thousands of dislocated Gulf Coast sufferers. A fraction of the efforts put by Red Cross also involved the distribution of prepaid cards to the victims. This prepaid card distribution was initiated to allow the efficient distribution of monetary support to the victims of disaster. Michael Brackney, Director of Service Delivery Development at the Red Cross, considered the card distribution as an integral part of the individual support part of the relief operation. Along with The Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also involved itself in the mass care phase of the operation so that the basic needs of the people could be met ("Prepaid Cards Help," 2008).

The federal government also issued more than ten thousand debit cards through FEMA to help out the refugees who had taken shelter in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Every card had a monetary value of two thousand dollars. These cards could not be used for buying alcohol, tobacco or weapons. The recipients were asked to agree on the terms that they would use these debit cards only for making purchases to recover from disaster and would spend it for the sake of rebuilding their lives. However, just after 3 days of the commencement of this program, it was discontinued as a result of the expression of frustration by refugees due to the whole process. Therefore, FEMA adopted the method of direct cash deposit into the accounts of the assisted.

It was also found out that not everyone followed the purpose of the program and many of the victims who received these debit cards did not use them in recovering from the disaster. Instead, they used those cards purchasing luxury or entertainment items. The debit cards were also used for buying expensive branded clothes, plasma television sets, diamond earrings, at strip clubs and for breast implants (Mikkelson, 2005). In addition, debit cards were also used for paying for a Caribbean vacation, buying of professional football tickets, and spending on adult entertainment (Kutz & Ryan, 2006). As a consequence, the Houston Police Department had to form a task force so that the abuse of the debit cards issued by FEMA could be investigated. It is still unknown however, that how many debit cards were misused. Nevertheless, a majority of people used these cards fairly (Mikkelson, 2005).

Thus, the objective behind this novel program of assisting the homeless Katrina and Ike victims went unsuccessful and quite amazingly no one took the responsibility of the failure of the program. It has become a big issue because seeing this all, the Americans are reluctant in opening their wallets to any disaster relief organization like the American Red Cross etc. Also, the American citizens are not as supportive of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as they were in the past. The reason is simple. Their suspicions have heightened that the money they are going to donate would not be used wisely and properly. This is quite obvious because they drain money from their households (in the form of taxes or direct donations) to assist the victims of disaster. However, a majority of Americans have now stopped doing so because of the reporting about the false use of the debit cards (Mikkelson, 2005). The responsibility of this issue lies on the shoulders of FEMA that was unable to establish that seven hundred and fifty debit cards worth $1.5 million went to hurricane Katrina victims (Kutz & Ryan, 2006).

It was also found out that FEMA did not institute sufficient organizing tools to make accountability over the debit cards certain. This lack of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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