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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A brief timeline of the Katrina response

[Note that none of this has been taken from any other blog or media index of Katrina-related information. I found it all using Google searches and official US Fed and State government websites.]

On Friday August 26, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) declared a State of Emergency. This only applied to Louisiana-wide emergency services:
SECTION 2: The state of Louisiana's emergency response and recovery program is activated under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to prepare for and provide emergency support services and/or to minimize the effects of the storm's damage.
On Saturday August 27, Blanco
sent a letter to President Bush requesting a declaration of a State of Emergency in Louisiana under the federal Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act:
Pursuant to 44 CFR ยง 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.
You can read about these programs on FEMA's site here. Most of the names I see in Blanco's proclamation above are for financial compensation or disaster-related loans, and support for cleaning up afterwards.

On Saturday August 27, Bush complied.

A 2000 article from an American Bar Association sums up the role of FEMA:
In its role as coordinator of federal assistance, FEMA may designate other federal agencies to provide specific types of assistance to those impacted by "emergencies" and "disasters" that the president declares under the Stafford Act.
So an "emergency" is different to a "disaster", and different levels of FEMA support apply depending on the classification. Futhermore the President can only follow the requests of a State (or other body) executive:
Under the Stafford Act, postdisaster assistance may be provided only if the president, at the request of a state governor, declares that an emergency or disaster exists that is beyond the state's capability to redress.
Note that this article predates the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, which FEMA is now part of.

If you visit Governor Blanco's executive order archives you'll see she kept it rather late organising buses (Sept 2nd), and her proclamation archives don't seem to have anything declaring 'martial law' or asking for further Federal assistance. However the Louisiana Attorney General's Office states the Lousiana law under which Blanco declared a "state of emergency" on August 26th includes provisions for suspending civil liberties. In other words Blanco has had the legal power to deal with problems in Louisiana for 10 days.

If anyone has further knowledge of the legal circumstances by which Federal soldiers are operating in Louisiana, I'd be keen to publish them here.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 9/07/2005 09:24:00 pm