Who's in Charge of FEMA? Ex-Firefighter and Disaster Expert Craig Fugate

Friday, August 26, 2011

Remember “Heckuva job, Brownie?”

A botched response to a devastating storm can catapult a anonymous midlevel Washington administrator to household name status. And despite a series of crippling storms during his tenure — including the tornado in Joplin, the Midwest’s massive flooding, and 65 major disaster declarations in all this year — Craig Fugate has avoided getting much attention since he was confirmed as FEMA administrator in May 2009. For example, his Wikipedia entry as of Friday afternoon was just three sentences long.

Before coming to Washington, Fugate ran emergency operations in Florida from 2001 to 2009, where he coordinated the state’s response to a string of hurricanes in back-to-back years (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne in 2004 and Dennis, Katrina and Wilma n 2005). He was first appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, and Gov. Charlie Crist kept him in the job.

While running that state agency, he also had a side project: a user-friendly website called, which combines a very non-governmental DIY-look with practical disaster planning advice and links to storm-tracking sites.

And while Michael Brown was roundly criticized after Hurricane Katrina for having a deeper background in Arabian horses than disaster response, Fugate’s emergency experience goes back to high school, when he trained as a volunteer firefighter. That’s was in keeping with President Obama campaign promise to appoint a tested emergency professional. Politifact points out, though, that Obama has fallen short of his pledge to de-politicize the post by giving the FEMA chief a six-year term.

After more than two decades in emergency management, in which he’s worked for both Republicans and Democrats, Fugate has most certainly gained an appreciation for the political value of a low-profile. He was actually offered the FEMA administrator job once before – Bush offered him the FEMA post after Michael Brown resigned amid criticism after Katrina – but he declined, according to Time, because “the timing wasn’t right.”


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Comments [2]

Jose Chavez from Lond island ny

Please could you help me out and all my coworkers of asplund tree espert ' fix a problem or tell us where to call to notify. That we all get employed for the recovery after Irene storm . We see some discrepance on our salaries they don't clarify how much FEMA paying us . Management families members makes double $$ than a heavy maching operator . Like some grounds guy make more than a Forman or heavy maching operator , because they are families of the general Forman .
Thanks for u attention We all will appreciate
Jose Chavez and coworkers

Apr. 21 2013 08:28 AM
Pamala McBrayer from Dallas, TX

I have been watching Mr. Craig's presentation of 08/16/11 on C-SPAN today while waiting for Irene to make landfall. I found many of his observations relevant, but consistently I find a couple of areas lacking in FEMA. A primary area of concern are wildlife and animal management during and after a disaster event.
I use social media to make contacts with people who have pets, work with rescues, in affected areas as a link, or external resource, to help redirect/match their needs with their problems. I have been known to send notices to municipal kill-shelters and remind them that misusing euthanasia for population control is poor management, and instead offer to match them with adoption transfer and resource expansion, either in that location, or to remove animals to a safe location....the philosophy is this: bring needed supplies in, evacuate going out...the goal being to work on both supply and demand for resources to establish an equilibrium. The key to success is to make authorities aware that their performance is being monitored, to encourage humane conditions, and preserve animal lives and the rights of disaster displaced owners to recover their pets (property). Expanding capacity is NOT such a challenge that they make it out to be!
Municipal shelters sometimes have the mentality that it is ok to "clear out" excess animals to "prepare" for the disaster event. My question is this: What are the taxpayers paying for? It is NOT ok to be killing healthy, adoptable animals for the sake of convenience and capacity! These animals did nothing to deserve death, and investments in their care have already been paid for. It seems like a small thing...but it will not be to the families whose pet survived, was rescued, held for a minimum period of time, then euthanized before it could be reclaimed by its owner...who was what? Even a microchipped animal is at risk...if that last phone call contact is not successful. Evacuated while seperated from the animal. How do people in these animal control offices justify that loss, on top of loss of human lives, homes, schools, funds? How do we knowingly choose such a destructive response so easily?
I am in favor of declaring euthanasia moratoriums pending major disaster events. The overpopulation issue needs to be considered once the area recovers and owners return to the area. This also includes supportive fostering for owners who are unable to care for their pets because their home has been lost. I was absolutely stunned that an owner of two very sweet dogs from the Alabama tornadoes owner surrendered them because his home was destroyed. NO ONE offered him an alternative, and no seemed committed to creating a solution, either. Shame on us! We can do better...we must do better, because domesticated look to humans for care. It is our bond with them, and we have a duty to that bond.

Aug. 26 2011 06:53 PM

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