Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Some how tornadoes have always been my favorite for testing local governments in their immediate response capability. Warnings have improved with the Community Weather Service effort of NOAA but still it is not perfect. That program was scheduled by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 the plan that created FEMA to be moved to FEMA and even was included in EO 12127 but it never happened. That order has not been revised but the REAGAN ADMINISTRATION reversed course on that issue in 1982. FEMA three times to my knowledge under Congressional pressure funded wide scale provision of NOAA weather radios to communities. Also note that community warning through social media has not really been supported much at all by the federal government although the FCC is now taking an interest. The FCC post-Katrina efforts on emergency communications have been outstanding but worrisome is the impact of events that knock out cellular communications as occurred in Japan's recent catastrophe.

Well tornadoes are NO NOTICE EVENTS and therefore little federal help except after the fact federal financial assistance can be provided. The last tornado that really had a fundamental impact on federal disaster policy was Xenia, Ohio in 1974 in which my memory is that over 800 people died. Survivors wandering the streets weeks later led to the enactment of the provision of mental health counseling in the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, Public Law 93-288. This was accomplished by personnel at NIMH over the objections of FEMA which seldom has sought expansion of its actual disaster relief authority and usually has opposed it even when enacted by bureacratically undermining the statutory mandate. Essentially because FEMA is largely immune from suit for its disaster activities it often chooses to ignore legal mandates. Perhaps Congress should review that exemption?