Ex-FEMA chief: Agency burdened by “unrealistic” expectations

As authorities prepare for a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Dorian in the Southeast, the former top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said the agency is burdened by “unrealistic” disaster response expectations, from both lawmakers and the public.

“FEMA faces unrealistic expectations by Congress and the American public, and the standards in which we declare major disaster declarations need to be increased,” Brock Long, who resigned from his post as FEMA administrator earlier this year, said on “Face the Nation” Sunday. 

Long, who reportedly tendered his resignation in March because of an internal investigation into potentially improper use of government vehicles to commute to his home in North Carolina, said that local and state jurisdictions need to step up and help FEMA respond to natural disasters.

“We’ve got to stop looking at FEMA as 911,” he said, adding that he believes everyday Americans need to be trained to be better prepared for natural disasters. 

“If we want to get better and become more resilient and respond better then we have to refocus the training upon how we asked citizens to be prepared, not just going out and having supplies for five to seven days, but, you know, teaching them how to become more financially resilient; teaching them that insurance is the first line of defense, not FEMA; teaching them tangible skills like CPR when they face active shooter events,” he added. 

Long said FEMA’s mission will be effectively “impossible” until Congress passes legislation to incentivize the enactment of building codes and help state and local governments maintain and strengthen public infrastructure. 

The former FEMA administrator urged people in southeast U.S., especially in Florida and the Carolinas, to not let their “guard down” as Dorian continues its trajectory north. 

As it moved up through the Caribbean and struck the Bahamas on Sunday, Dorian strengthened to a Category 5 storm, with government forecasters warning of “catastrophic conditions” in the Abaco Islands. President Trump and his top Department of Homeland Security official Kevin McAleenan, who oversees FEMA, have said the government is preparing for the worst case scenario. 

“It seems to be one of the biggest hurricanes that we’ve ever seen. And that’s a problem,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House south lawn on Sunday afternoon. 

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