Is FEMA Better Prepared for Rita?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency faced much criticism for the way it responded to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Now, as Hurricane Rita descends on Texas and Louisiana, all eyes are on FEMA officials to see if they have learned lessons from the Katrina disaster.

"I'm working from this point forward, not from what happened with Katrina," said FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison.

FEMA's priority right now is that people in the affected areas stay indoors, said Paulison.

"The biggest emergency is making sure people stay in their homes," Paulison said. "There's a lot of rain, a lot of water, a lot winds."

"People need to understand that until their local first responders can get there, they need to stay put, and it could take some time for them to get there," he added.

Although Paulison said he had not spoken to President Bush this morning, he said he has been in "constant communication with our people on the ground."

However, it's too early for FEMA to assess the damage Rita has caused so far.

"When the sun comes up and the wind dies down, we can get an assessment," Paulison said.

Praise for Texas's Evacuation

Some have criticized the evacuation out of Houston, where residents faced bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours as they left the city. The empty lanes heading toward the city should have been opened to the outbound traffic, some critics said.

But Paulison said that FEMA was not involved with Lone Star state's evacuation procedures. Texas's decision to evacuate came from state and local authorities, he said. Still, FEMA acting director praised the evacuation.

"The people responded, they did the right thing. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. I am very proud of the state of Texas and the city of Houston. They did the right thing," Paulison said.

Among the resources FEMA has poised and ready to go in the wake of Hurricane Rita are 45 truckloads of water, 45 truckloads of ice and 25 truckloads of meals for Texas and 140 truckloads of water, 120 truckloads of ice, and 73 truckloads of meals for Louisiana.

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