The U.S. government's Hurricane Katrina preparations "were all wrong" and more communications gear, emergency supplies and people are in Florida ahead of Hurricane Wilma as a result, President George W. Bush's homeland security adviser said Friday.
With the powerful Wilma expected to hit Florida on Monday, an administration anxious to be seen as aggressively getting ready had Frances Fragos Townsend detail what she said were "enhanced" preparations. Some examples:
_ The Pentagon and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are deploying more communications equipment to the areas Wilma might affect.
_ The Pentagon's U.S. Northern Command, the Colorado Springs, Colo., outfit in charge of homeland security, has stationed planners inside FEMA headquarters in Washington so the military can be dispatched as quickly as possible to the right places.
_ Larger numbers of federal officials have been sent to the region to provide on-the-ground coordination with state and local authorities. _ Increased amounts of food, water and ice are ready in the region. Townsend said the government will be able to meet the post-Wilma requests of state and local governments "more effectively and efficiently" than last time. But she acknowledged that officials believed ahead of Katrina that they were well-prepared then, too.
David Paulison, director of the Federal Emgency Management Agency, said the biggest problem with the Katrina response was a lack of awareness of the situation on the ground by officials in charge. He said FEMA will have 300 satellite telephones in Florida and additional personnel at key locations across the state.
Paulison said state and local officials in Florida are well-prepared for the storm and he advised residents to pay close attention to local emergency management directions if evacuations are needed.
Townsend's separate review of the Katrina response, being conducted by a 12-person White House staff, has already noted that some of the primary shortcomings in emergency management are coordination failures, both within the federal government and between Washington and the local areas, poor information sharing and a potential lack of authority for the government to step in quickly.
The internal White House investigation is expected to conclude around the first of the year, in time for Congress to act in the spring if necessary and for other changes to be in place well before next year's hurricane season, the AP reported.