Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Puerto Rico and Disaster III

I suspect when the federal response to Irma and Maria in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is studied by academics, the conclusion will include these points:
  • FEMA's usual disaster response implicitly assumed that the disaster is on the mainland, not on islands.  So its capacity to respond to island disasters was limited.  For example, recognizing that power crews would need their trucks transported to the island.  (To me this is another aspect of a general rule that island life is limited--so some (all?) species tend to grow smaller on islands, etc.)
  • FEMA was able to learn from prior mainland disasters (like Katrina and later ones), partly because of feedback from the affected areas, feedback often routed through federal elected officials--representatives and senators.  For example, after Katrina the agency was changed and Fugate, Obama's head of FEMA, got kudoes from Congress and the press for doing a good job.  But IMHO it's likely the job he did was deficient for PR and VI. 
  • Two problems: the media doesn't pay attention to our Caribbean citizens and their elected representatives don't have the clout that mainland reps do.

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