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Thank God for FEMA…

There is an interesting article on American Thinker about the institutional mindset of political correctness.

A team of Indiana firefighters, volunteering to help rescue victims of Katrina, went to Atlanta, where Federal Emergency Management Agency staffers told them that their job was to hand out fliers and that their first task was to attend a multi-hour course on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity

And a useful comment on that story that quotes Theodore Dalrymple can be found on No Pasaran

29 comments to Thank God for FEMA…

  • This story is based on a misunderstanding of one of FEMA’s roles.

    FEMA has three main functions that occur in different time frames: (1) Coordination of immediate response i.e. search and rescue, emergency shelters etc (2) Sheltering and basic cleanup i.e. short term housing for evacuees, clearing road ways and restoring power (3) reconstruction assistance i.e. basically Federal insurance.

    The volunteers in the story were recruited to work in stage 3 reconstruction. FEMA wanted to put people on the ground in devastated areas quickly to try to get people in touch with FEMA early so they could quickly begin the reconstruction process. The fire departments were told beforehand that the firefighters would not be doing emergency work. They chose firefighters because FEMA judged they could move into an effected area more quickly and safely than those with no emergency training.

    The media does not understand nor care how FEMA works. They think all FEMA does is emergency work so when they see people doing anything else they assume someone has screwed up.

  • Shad

    I agree with Shannon’s comment above.

    I don’t understand your outrage that FEMA would send out a request for firefighters who wanted to perform community relations work, and then provide the required training for them to perform that work once they had volunteered for it.

    Are you under the impression that FEMA had issued a blanket nation-wide call for help from firefighters and then got confused once the volunteers showed up and so shunted them off into a nearby sexual harassment seminar?

    If you were under that impression (from the incredibly inaccurate and accusatory media coverage that has permeated the entire Katrina disaster), I recommend you read this USFA Request to Mobilize Fire Service Members. You could also read over the official FEMA requests (PDF format) that were made to volunteer and career fire service personnel. An excerpt:

    The work we are recruiting Fire Service members for is community relations-focused, consisting of direct humanitarian outreach to persons in multi-state areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. It is non-operational in nature. You will assist victims in applying for Federal disaster assistance, distribute information, provide minimal first aid (if required), and take reports.

    The bolding appears in the original document.

  • Jamie Young

    Why would firefighters recruited to ‘distribute information, provide minimal first aid…and take reports’ require ‘a multi-hour course on sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity’?

  • Jamie Young,

    Such training is simply SOP for any public or private entity in the U.S. these days. We call it the “don’t be jerk” training. Some of the training is worthwhile because sometimes people don’t understand what the law actually is. Most of it is, however, just silly.

    However, the impression given by the various news stories i.e. that people were dying while the rescue workers were tied up in sexual harassment training is simply not true. The firefighters in the training were not going to be used in rescue operations and were not scheduled to be deployed for several days so the training, though possibly a waste of money, didn’t negatively impact rescue and evacuation operations at all.

  • John K

    Why would you even want to waste the time of trained fire fighters in what looks like some sort of admin function? Maybe we could send some of our “real nappy co-ordinators” and “five a day outreach workers” over there for a while? Probably best not to send too many “men who have sex with men facilitators” over to Alabama and Mississippi though.

    It might be a good idea to send John Prescott over to see what happens when you build a city in a floodplain, but on reflection I think the Yanks have suffered enough.

  • veryretired

    Classes like the one cited are lawyer driven liability avoidance mechanisms, similar to the pages of boilerplate language now found in any contract, or the pages of warnings now handed out with the most mundane medical prescriptions.

    The rule that now dominates the way organizations operate in the US legal environment is that of vicarious liability. This standard states that an organization, like FEMA, is liable for any agents’ unlawful behavior while under its control, even if the behaviour is against clearly stated policies.

    So, in order to be able to demonstrate in court that these firefighters working for FEMA had been properly trained in matters of sexual harrassment, a lawyer approved training class was conducted. Then, if someone later filed a civil suit claiming that one of these agents had sexually harrassed them, FEMA would be indemnified.

    The amount of time and money spent in pursuit of legal immunity from liability under the current reign of “class action” terror from lawyers who literally advertise in the media for people to call them in order to sue somebody is an enormous burden on every aspect of American life.

    There is a reason Dante reserved a special level just for lawyers, and I haven’t seen anything to improve that opinion of them, indeed, just the opposite. I have never seen a more parasitical and destructive line of work, and every year the law schools crank out a few thousand more. Stories like the one under discussion here are the result.

  • 50 Cents

    Veryretired. Excellent post. Must check out the full Dante S.P.

    Praps he’ll have a special special hell for soi-disant “human rights” lawyers, who’re only interested in criminal rights. And who continually misrepresent Magna Carta. (Yes, I’ve read it. Unlike them.)

    Only one thing – surely the Indiana firemen (lets avoid Newspeak) had already had their = Opps brainwashing in Peoria or wherever?

  • John K,

    “Why would you even want to waste the time of trained fire fighters in what looks like some sort of admin function?”

    FEMA wanted to reach people and start the reconstruction paperwork before major services were even restored. The wanted the firefighters to go into areas that were heavily damaged but still populated and contact people in person and give them the information on how to contact FEMA and start the reconstruction process. They thought firefighters could more safely navigate in a damaged area than office workers.

    Ironically, in this case, FEMA is getting grief for trying to work to fast.

  • Julian Taylor

    Hmm, does the ‘touchy feely’ insurance-safe administration course extend to the rest of the Department of Homeland Security, or is it just limited to FEMA? Certainly don’t recall DHS staff at JFK acting with any consideration to tourists.

    As for John K’s comment I think you’re right – the people of Louisiana have suffered more than enough to not need the further infliction of a visit from Prescott. Send him on a factfinding visit to Texas – they sure as hell know how to deal with commie agitators there.

  • Sigivald

    Jamie: The real reason?

    So that some knucklehead can’t successfully sue the Government for a kazillion dollars if a fireman hits on her (or is alleged to), and causes mental trauma, etc. etc. (Which I see veryretired has already mentioned, but hey – it’s right once, it’s right twice.)

    It’s CYA, but CYA is unfortunately absolutely necessary. Plus, of course, since the duties involved were non-emergency, an 8 hour delay (which realistically makes it a whole day delay) is not a big deal.

    Nobody’s going to die because they had to wait a day to get a flier handed out to them telling them where to apply for their handout. The vital handouts (food, water, shelter) were already being handled.

  • There are a great many things in the world that are unlawful. Why didn’t they get a 4 hour disabusal on, say, petty theft, or running a red light too?

  • Veryretired:

    The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.


  • Trey Monke

    I’d really appreciate any feedback on this.



    Red Cross Story Update: Garrett’s Majorly Wrong Reason?

    A possibly serious flaw in Major Garrett’s reporting is that he failed to emphasize the importance of SAFETY and SECURITY in deciding whether the Red Cross would enter New Orleans in the first days after the storm.

    Both the Red Cross (in Larry King’s interview with Marsha Evans, Sept 2nd) and Bill O’Reilly (in his interview with Marsha Evans, Sept 6th) point out these important issues.
    (See relevant clips here: http://mediamatters.org/items/200509090002).

    It seems that Major Garret was aware of the safety and security issues that might well have stopped the Red Cross from entering anyway.

    “But the state told us A) it’s not safe, because the water is dangerous. And we’re now learning how toxic the water is. B) there’s a security situation, because they didn’t have a handle on the violence on the ground. And C) and I think (my emphasis) this is most importantly, they wanted to evacuate out. They didn’t want people to stay.”

    But for some reason Major Garrett assumed that the desire to evacuate was the most important reason the Red Cross were not in New Orleans, which seems contrary to what we know from Marsha Evan’s Interviews with Larry King and with Bill O’Reilly. Subsequently, this is what he emphasized in this reporting and now this is the story that is going around.

    But isn’t it understandable that the Red Cross were blocked if it was simply too dangerous for them to be there?

    And is it accurate to say the Red Cross were ‘blocked’ from entering New Orleans, if they would not have gone in anyway, because it was too unsafe for them to go in?

    We know that the Red Cross really wanted to provide assistance. But would they have actually entered a highly dangerous New Orleans in the first days after the storm, risking the lives of their own members, if they had been given the opportunity?

    Trey Monke

  • Trey Monke

    Red Cross: “It Was Not Safe To Be In The City” (Video).

    In a Larry King interview on Sept 2nd, Red Cross CEO Marsha Evans explained that the Red Cross were not in New Orleans because it was unsafe.

    “It was unsafe to be in the city.”

    “…it was not safe to be in the city, and it’s not been safe to go back into the city.”

    According to other reports, Red Cross workers could have been shot or infected by disease if they entered New Orleans in the first days after the storm.

    In addition, Evans mentioned concerns that relocating in the city would delay evacuation.

    “They were also concerned that if we located, relocated back into the city, people wouldn’t leave, and they’ve got to leave.”

    However, many reporters and news sources have failed to acknowledge the safety/security aspects of Marsha Evan’s explanation (an exception being Bill O’Reilly at Fox News).

    It is not yet clear whether or not the Red Cross would have entered the city early on, given these serious safety risks, even if they had not been asked to stay out by the National Guard, the city and State emergency management.

    A relevant video clip from the Larry King interview can be found on this liberal (website):


    Comment by MaxPlanck — September 13, 2005 @ 9:24 pm

  • Trey Monke

    Sorry – that last comment was from politicalteen. I worked from that.


    Any thoughts?


  • veryretired

    Alisa—marvelous quotation.

    For some reason utterly unfathomable to me, lawyers have reached a level of influence in our society far beyond anything their natural contribution would justify. They infest every legislative body, regulatory agency, and administrative division at all levels of government, and for the life of me, I cannot see the benefit to the ordinary citizen.

    It is, in the final analysis, exactly the ongoing scam that Dickens describes.

  • John K


    Sounds like Dickens would have understood the European Union perfectly. Indeed, his words could apply to virtually any bureaucratic construct which can get its clammy hands on the public’s money.

  • Veryretired: I am absolutely with you as far as the outrage at the current state of affairs on this issue, but: the main point I came with from that quote (and the rest of that book, for that matter) is that law is a business just like any other business. This was a fact then, and it remains a fact today. Once this simple fact is acknowledged, it becomes obvious that it is up to both private citizens and public organizations to treat it just like any other business, which is to say with a take it or leave it approach. What I am saying is that it is simply up to us to choose to turn or not to turn to lawyers every time we don’t get something we want. Blaming the lawyers for the current state of affairs is like blaming drug dealers for addicts’ addiction.

  • Midwesterner

    The problem with lawyers, and how we acheived the state Dickens describes, is that we let them write the laws. Maybe we should ban lawyers from the legislature. They’re writing the very laws that cause us to need a lawyers expertise.

  • Well, yes, that too. Although I think lawyers’ prevalence in the legislature is a relatively recent phenomenon – or am I wrong?

  • Midwesterner

    I don’t know. I think Jefferson was qualified at law. Probably law was more of a avocation than a vocation at that time. Lincoln was a career lawyer, I think.

    There is an old saying, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Coming from a career in law definately predisposes a politician to resort to writing more of them.

  • Midwesterner

    I’m not sure if Jefferson was ever actually in legislature, but that was Lincolns career path.

  • The quote, and indeed the book show that it was very much a vocation, at least in England.

  • veryretired

    I think one of the reasons lawyers have prospered in our society is the very nature of the liberal/progressive/socialist approach to problems—the solution to any and all difficulties is to draft some legislation or regulations.

    As the tangled undergrowth of rules and regulatons gets thicker and thicker, everything becomes a matter for the law, and the courts. Similar to the ascendency of the scribes in ancient Egypt, or the Byzantine eunuchs, or the civil servants of the modern welfare state, lawyers have risen as the keepers of the holy writ.

    I have long believed, as a post above mentions, that it is a conflict of interest for a lawyer to also be involved in legislating or administering the law. They already have a monopoly lock on the judicial leg of our system, they should not also control the other two branches.

    If industry reps are involved in writing the rules for their own behavior, the cry immediately goes up that they have a vested interest in the deal, and should not be in control. As Alisa points out, the law is just another business, and should not have such a pervasive influence on everything in society.

    But, of course, that is one of the major points of my opposition to the overarching power and interference of the current political structure—the state touches and interferes with everything, and those who craft the rules are empowered far beyond the merit of their actual contribution to the progress of society.

    Indeed, in the upside down universe of the statist, the fact that these endless rules and regulations actually interfere with progress and social harmony are the reason the writers and interpreters and adjudicators are so powerful.

    In a variation of Superman’s Bizzarro universe, it is those who obstruct and inhibit development who gain the most, while those whose work actually leads to progress are beset on all sides by endless and unfathomable regulations, and threatened by continuous investigations and lawsuits.

  • Midwesterner

    Exactly. Very well put.

  • Very well put indeed, and very true. But I’d slightly rephrase your opening sentence, to highlight a broader aspect of the problem: “…one of the reasons lawyers have prospered in our society is the very nature of the liberal/progressive/socialist approach to problems—the solution to any and all difficulties is anywhere but within one’s self“. Otherwise how do you explain that McD can be sued for making people fat, not to mention for making their coffee hot?

  • veryretired

    I have several thermal mugs I’ve bought or received as presents. The have little warnings imprinted on the top—“WARNING-Contents may be Hot”.

    Well, duh. Now, why do you suppose the cup maker figured that was necessary?

  • Midwesterner


    I find that warning entirely too ambiguous. ‘May’? What kind of a warning is that? I think it should be mandatory that all mugs should be equipped with that thermally sensitive tape that could then be printed with warnings relevant to the actual temperature of the contents. A panel would have to be established to determine exactly what warnings are appropriate to what temperatures. This panel should, of course, have the benefit of good legal council.

    What do you think? Should we form a citizens action group and get something done before anymore innocent people are hurt?

    And while we’re at it, we could agitate for the setting up of a study group to determine if research should be initiated regarding the use of similar technology on teacups. |:-)

  • Midwesterner

    In hindsight, that wasn’t even funny. It’s just too close to possible for comfort.

    It is sooooo time for a change.