+Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Fema's Disaster Management Program: A Performance Audit after Hurricane Andrew (1993)
"FEMA should be commended for formulating the "Federal Response Plan" after its experiences with Hurricane Hugo and Loma Prieta. The Plan provided the framework fo numerous Federal agencies' response to Hurricane Andrew. However, Andrew demonstrated that the Plan needs substantial refinements to deal with a disaster of such extraordinary magnitude, particularly in the first few days when broad assistance was so vitally needed but slow in arriving. Several such refinements come directly from lessons learned with Hugo and Loma Prieta, described in the FEMA report of May 1991 on this subject. That report specifically commented that the Federal Government may be the principal responder when a catastrophic disaster overwhelms the State and local governments' ability to respond. FEMA management failed to systematically follow up on the more important problem areas described in that report.
"A key lesson is the need to clarify or expand legal authority for Federal agencies to act quickly, instead of waiting for specific requests for aid from the States. In 1991 FEMA officials proposed legislation that would have somewhat expanded Federal authority, but they gave up when the proposal was not approved for submission to Congress. The weakness of the "Federal Response Plan" and Federal agencies' performance in south Florida are caused primarily by the perception of inadequate authority on such a fundamental issue involving its capability to perform promptly in a catastrophic disaster situation. This issue takes on even more importance in a situation such as Andrew, when many State and local officials could not identify their requirements for Federal assistance, further contributing to victims' suffering.
"We believe this unresolved question of authority would lead FEMA officials to approach the next catastrophic disaster largely in the same way they did Hurricane Andrew, with consequent delay in meeting victims' immediate needs. Mindful that the next hurricane season is but six months away, we present numerous findings and recommendations for improving the Federal response. ...."—Executive Summary.