You’re On Your Own, Good Luck


Staten Island FEMA Disaster Center Shuts Doors ‘Due to Weather’


TOTTENVILLE — They fly into disaster areas, but flee from raindrops.

A FEMA disaster recovery center in a Hurricane Sandy-ravaged corner of Staten Island that was supposed to provide shelter, food and assistance to hurricane victims Wednesday morning went MIA, posting a sign saying that they were closed due to the approaching nor’easter.

A printed paper sign taped to the front door of on the center at 6581 Hylan Blvd. at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday read “FEMA Center Closed Due to Weather.”

If I thought that there was anything the least bit funny about this, I’d include a clip of BJ Thomas singing “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” but the truth is it’s not funny, it’s pathetic.

A pair of FEMA workers alarmed by a reporter’s camera came out of the building at 11 a.m. and took the sign down, saying the shelter would open at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The worker declined to give his name and would not explain why the site was closed or why the buses were missing.

A FEMA press representative did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Why would someone from the federal government want  to respond to a press inquiry? More importantly, why isn’t the Main Stream Media all over this like they were Katrina?

Both of those were what we call rhetorical questions.

Ronald Reagan was right.


I’ve updated this post because I found a rather lengthy paper on the subject of disaster response, failure of government, and the use of the private sector. I wonder if Walmart would have closed their disaster response “store” on Staten Island if there was a storm.

Here is an excerpt from the paper with an embedded link to the entire PDF.

The tale of Hurricane Katrina as a massive failure of government at multiple levels is a widely accepted one, even among people normally not inclined to point the finger of blame at government. However, the lesson that many draw is that it was a failure of will, resources and/or expertise by government that created the catastrophe that was Katrina. What is much less often argued is that these failures were endemic to the institutional environment of the political process, which is unable to provide the knowledge and incentives necessary for effective resource allocation in the way that the private sector can. When placed next to FEMA’s failures, the largely untold but very clear story of Wal-Mart’s success illustrates the advantages the private sector has in managing the logistical challenge of resource allocation during a natural disaster.16 The incentive provided by private ownership and the knowledge provided by market signals such as prices and profits, all set in an environment of competition, create firms like Wal-Mart that are able to respond with agility and improvisation to a crisis like Katrina, and to do so with results far superior to almost all government agencies. A political economy perspective on Wal-Mart’s heroic performance strongly challenges the belief that with more will, resources, or expertise, government could ever respond effectively to a major diaster. The flip side of government’s massive failures during Katrina is the notable successes of the private sector. Disaster policy makers who ignore the other half of the story do so not only at their own peril, but also at the peril of millions of Americans who could be the next victims of another disastrous government disaster relief effort.


  1. FEMA should concentrate on two things, and two things only: Funding assistance, and coordination of multiple outside aid organizations.

    Leave the practical and day-to-day work to the organizations that are equipped to handle it: the Red Cross and other NGOs, businesses/corporations like Wal-Mart, and trained first responders (fire/EMS/police) both local and out of state.

  2. I’m not sure that I’d include the Red Cross, but other than that you’re spot on. Then again, maybe FEMA shouldn’t be involved in coordinating. Which means that they should just vet and then funnel money to agencies that actually can help.

  3. My community is in a high area and fldooing is not a huge probability. We have many underground springs which we have to deal with but they go down into a lake. Besides landscaping for heavy rains or clean our lots for fire possibility, any losses must be covered by insurance.personal experience

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