Thursday, November 01, 2007

FEMA spokesman's new job on hold

The continuing of the arrogance of this administration, and their blatant dishonesty with the public, is simply breathtaking.

FEMA spokesman's new job on hold - The White House -

The day after the full extent of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was apparent, we called an emergency meeting at Sesame Workshop, pulling department heads from Production, Interactive & Wireless, Educational Content, Research, Outreach, and Foundation Funding. Sesame Street is hardly a "first responder" in a natural disaster, but in fact, the organization makes a very meaningful contribution in the "second wave" of response, when children and families are affected. Sesame can get into a disaster site with books, videos, support materials for parents & caregivers....many, many resources to help adults get preschoolers back to a feeling of routine and safety. And, the wonderful Sesame puppeteers volunteered weeks of their time in the aftermath of Katrina, visiting shelters and cheering up children (as well as their discouraged parents).

What does this all have to do with FEMA? That day when we called all our Sesame department heads together, we challenged ourselves to get into the field with a response within 24 hours, since tens of thousands of preschoolers were homeless & frightened, and millions more around the country were being traumatized by seeing all the coverage on television. We went around the table, asking questions of various department heads. "Production - don't you have a short, edited version of Big Bird's "Hurricane" story?" "Interactive - can we get that short story up on Verizon wireless V-CAST right away?" (a better solution than video in the immediate aftermath, since no one in the affected area had electricity). Then I asked, "Who's talking to FEMA?"


I asked it again. "What is FEMA saying about how we can help?" The answer was disheartening. "We haven't been able to develop a new contact at FEMA since it was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security. We talk to someone, and then they are gone the next time we call back." My heart sank. "Oh my God, FEMA is broken," was all that I could think....a realization that within a matter of days was apparent to the whole world.

Two years later, we are still obsessed with spin and manipulation of the facts, rather than with getting this absolutely critical agency to work well again. It is a crucial component of our national readiness in this time of heightened vulnerability. What are they thinking?

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