Aug. 19, 2007 -- With Hurricane Dean barreling towards Texas, and his agency's slow and flawed reaction to Hurricane Katrina still fresh in people's minds, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator David Paulison promised that FEMA is prepared for the first hurricane of the Atlantic season to make landfall in the United States.
"We are ready," Paulison said. "This is one of the best-coordinated efforts I have seen throughout the federal family, and I want to make sure I emphasize that this is a federal response.
"The response from the military, the Coast Guard — quite frankly, all the federal partners — has been extremely positive and very, very cooperative," he added, "to make sure we are going to have as many resources on the ground as possible and can respond as quickly as we can with anything that could happen in this country."
Despite a forecast calling for the brunt of Dean's force to hit further south than southeastern Texas, Paulison cited the unpredictability of these storms, and said, "We are going to continue to operate as if this storm is moving into the United States, and I think that is the prudent thing to do."
FEMA's director expressed his concern for this part of Texas, where some residents live in sub-standard housing that could be overwhelmed by the Category 4 storm.
"There's probably about 400,000 people living in some very sub-standard housing," Paulison said. "Texas is saying that they may have to evacuate — if this storm does come up further north — over 100,000 out of that area. They primarily do not have any transportation."
He advised Texans that "if I was a Texas resident, particularly along that southeast coast, I would make sure that my home was ready. I would make sure that I had my 3-day supply of food and water ... This is not a time to be complacent."
Paulison said the Lone Star state has 2,500 National Guard members ready, a number that should swell to 4,500 by Monday, and to 10,000 by Wednesday, if necessary. He also noted that government agencies have 10 million liters of water and 4 million Meals-Ready-to-Eat food packs in the state, with the Red Cross providing 7 more million liters of water and more MREs.
He commended his agency for responding "very forcefully and very quickly to this event," before reassuring the American public that the mistakes of Katrina would not be repeated.
"What I see is a total effort by the state and by the federal government to make sure that we don't have another response like we had with Katrina. We are mobilizing all the federal assets that we have, and the state assets to focus on that particular southeast Texas area."
Paulison replaced Michael Brown last year after the former FEMA chief had come under withering criticism for his lackluster response to the hurricane that ravaged the Gulf Coast.
"From my perspective, it's not going to happen," said Paulison. "We have done a tremendous amount of planning. We have resources that we simply did not have before. I know Katrina was a wake-up call for all of us in the emergency management field, but also in the federal government."
He added, "If I was concerned, I would tell you, but right now, quite frankly, I am not concerned. I do not see this country allowing another Katrina-type event to happen."