What is the Purpose of FEMA?
The most recent reports put the death toll from the recent tornadoes at 318. It is horrific and I pray for the survivors and those who lost family and homes. People are coming together and helping neighbors. Private charities are stepping up to the plate. Volunteer search and rescue teams are recovering the dead and finding survivors. Local and state emergency management agencies are organizing efforts, operating shelters, and coordinating mutual aid from undamaged neighboring jurisdictions. All very positive activities and necessary for a community to recover.
So what is the role of FEMA and the feds? President Obama said yesterday, "I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover." I have a problem with that statement.
As I was coming along, I was always under the belief that FEMA was there to assist states and localities in restoring infrastructure. Getting highways back open, rebuilding the local jail, financially helping poor jurisdictions... Managing outside responses during large regional events, bringing in resources from outside the affected area, getting the destroyed community hospital replaced with a MASH unit until a building can be adapted... When did the role of the federal government become handing out water, ice and generators to individual residents? Why does FEMA pay to rebuild damaged homes? Why is the United States in the camper business?
My first awareness of this micromanaged disaster response was in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel in 2003. This area was hit hard and many people were without power for several weeks. The morning after she hit, my wife (actually my fiance - our wedding was going to be the following weekend) and I managed to drive the 10 miles to my dad's house where he had two generators and running well water. It was a difficult drive. Once there, I went up to help cut away trees that had fallen on the road to the horse barns. I was cutting a tree that was under pressure and it snapped out, pushing me down at the ankles, and I broke my arm. We made it to the emergency room about 20 miles away, and under emergency power, got my arm set and a temporary cast on it. We gutted it out at my dad's for the next week.
We scoffed at reports of the FEMA trucks bringing in ice and water for distribution at the local fire house. But under the conventional wisdom that has taken over America since then, we should have waited in line for our rations, bought a generator so that FEMA would reimburse us for it, and applied for payments to cover my insurance deductibles. As the weeks unfolded, I became more and more dismayed at these supposedly independence minded rural folks who not only got these handouts, they demanded them. A few weeks later, I was further amazed when a coworker had to leave early to go meet the FEMA man at her house. He was there to estimate the damage to their roof and issue them a check to repair it. I asked her how she could take money to pay for something that her insurance would cover, and she said that they owned their house outright, so they didn't need insurance... the government had to take care of them.
Since that time, we've dramatically increased our ability to respond to disasters ourselves. Not even so that we don't have to be good little subjects and get our handouts from FEMA, but so that we can take care of ourselves, not intrude on my folks, and even be able to help our neighbors. But other disasters have shown that many of our fellow citizens are taking even less responsibility for themselves. Now we are apparently at the point where "every American affected" will get federal help to recover. I don't know that our nation can recover from that attitude.
Survivalists and preppers don't fall into that trap. We understand that we must be self-reliant. Help for individuals should be local and voluntary. I know that not everyone is able to help themselves. But that's what friendly neighbors and private charity should be for.
I hope I haven't put anyone off with this political post. It's not anti-Obama; I believe he's just continuing what George W. Bush started. It may go back farther then that.
Tune in tomorrow, I'll tell you about my Big Berkey that came today and my prepping activities for the weekend.