Ensuring human safety is a principal priority of the United States (US) government to all of its citizens. One of the aspects of human safety that the US government renders with considerable focus is evacuation during disasters. Whereas federal policies exist to ensure systematic execution of evacuation efforts in all levels – federal, state and local, those have met with concerns over inefficiency in bringing citizens stricken by disasters to immediate safety via evacuation. Nonetheless, federal evacuation policies continue to serve as frameworks for state and local-level administrations.
Overview on Evacuation Policies
Evacuation policies have long been integral to the efforts of the US government to fulfill its obligation to ensure the safety of its citizens. Such explains why many changes in evacuation policies have occurred throughout time. For instance, the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina during 2005 in several southern states such as Louisiana has inspired key changes in evacuation policies. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster and Relief Emergency Assistance Act, also known as the Stafford Act, stood as a reactionary policy to the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Stafford Act has empowered the President to deliver instructions on emergency responses to the Secretary of Defense as a means of curtailing damage to life and property through immediate actions even prior to the occurrence of a disaster - as in the case of precautionary evacuations, especially when there is no official declaration of a state of emergency. Moreover, the President may invoke under the Stafford Act the power to transport residents of disaster-stricken areas to safer locations, depending on the nature of damages the disaster has caused (Lindsay, 2011). Another notable federal policy concerning evacuation is the National Response Framework (NRF) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which constitutes a model for agencies at the federal, state and local level on certain responsibilities during disasters, hence ensuring efficient delivery of services pertaining to disaster management, particularly evacuation. Apart from NRP, the FEMA oversees the National Hurricane Program (NHP) for providing state and local-level administrations with assistance on creating safety mechanisms against hurricanes (Lindsay, 2011).
Implications of Federal Evacuation Policies on State and Local-Level Administrations
There is a strong showing that federal, state and local administrations are synergetic in fulfilling their respective roles under evacuation policies. Although the federal government has stood as the most active in enforcing evacuation policies, inefficiencies in service delivery remain prominent. Such has brought evacuation policies under deep scrutiny, with many citing government responses to the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina as a key example.
The US government, through FEMA, came under fire for its alleged failures in responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Several victims claimed that FEMA did not administer evacuation efforts properly, particularly due to confusing bureaucratic procedures that severely delayed delivery of services (Woolley, 2005; Lindsay, 2011). Moreover, accusations against the competence of officers under FEMA emerged through remarks made by critics (USA Today, 2005). Generally, many people, especially the victims, rendered emergency responses to damages caused by Hurricane Katrina as major failures, particularly because FEMA figured in several budget misallocations in delivering services for disaster management. One compelling case involved the payment of funerals by FEMA, found to have included those who did not perish from Hurricane Katrina, but from other unrelated causes. The fact that FEMA lacked a formidable budget structure caused several imbalances at the expense of victims of Hurricane Katrina (Burstein, Kestin & O’Matz, 2005). In response to the foregoing, the Stafford Act came into enactment to strengthen the resolve of the US government in fulfilling its obligation to protect its citizens in a balanced manner.
The essential components of evacuation policies the US government enforces currently include federal policies such as the Stafford Act, NRF and NHP. Although said federal policies stand as formidable frameworks for state and local-level administrations, those still undergo various stages of development (Lindsay, 2011). As provided in the case of damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, federal evacuation policies have caused inefficiencies in service delivery that severely affected victims of said disaster. State and local-level administrations must fix their priorities on disaster management in order to make federal policies effective as streamlining measures. As for the federal administration, it should make its engagement on evacuation deeper in order for it to gain valuable experiences instrumental to the formation of more federal policies. For instance, the amendment of the Stafford Act enabling faster transportation of people affected by disasters to safer areas has resulted from feedback coming from victims of Hurricane Katrina, who noted that government emergency responses failed to transfer them properly to safer locations (Lindsay, 2011)
There is no question to the premise on the instrumentality of federal policies on evacuation on providing guidance for state and local-level administrations. Although the response of the government to the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina has proven that federal policies still have a long way to go to attain strong efficiency, it also noted that the problem does not just lie at the structural aspect, but also within the realm of implementation. The federal administration must engage in more evacuation efforts in order for it to gain valuable insights on delivering services on evacuation efforts more efficiently.
Burstein, J., Kestin, S., & O’Matz, S. (2005, August 10). FEMA paid for at least 203 funerals not related to 2004 hurricanes. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/sfl-fema10aug10,0,2326863.story
Lindsay, B. (2011, January 18). Federal Evacuation Policy: Issues for Congress (Congressional Report No. RL34745). Washington DC: Library of Congress Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from Open CRS website: http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RL34745_20110118.pdf
USA Today. (2005, September 7). Exposed by Katrina, FEMA's flaws were years in making. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-09-07-our-view_x.htm
Woolley, L. (2005, September 15). FEMA – Disaster of an Agency. Retrieved from http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/9/12/102827.shtml