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Poor Sandy organization prevented FEMA responders from helping

homelandsecurity052011_optBY GINA G. SCALA
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Some FEMA workers deployed to the Garden State before Hurricane Sandy made landfall say they were stalled for days before assignments were handed out; claiming the scene at Fort Dix was chaotic and disorganized.

“They told us to go to the Walmart nearby or to check out the area but told us to stay out of the areas affected by the storm,” a Washington-based FEMA employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Fox News in an interview, the New York Daily News reported. "If our boss back at headquarters had not been alerted and didn’t make a push to get us assignments, the people running the show on the ground level would have just kept us sitting in the barracks.”

Fox News obtained a Nov. 3 email from a FEMA administrator, who wrote, “My people are being told to go sightseeing. They may have a mission in 2-4 days. I am asking them to reach out to contacts there that may be able to use their expertise…We will continue to seek these opportunities as otherwise these personnel resources will be wasted.”

Michael Byrne, a FEMA official, told Fox News.com, he understands “the emotional commitment,” but he took offense with the worker’s claim crews were confused in the field.

“If there were other people who weren’t able to help, I’d like to know who they are,” Byrne said. “We can always do better, but they have done a great job on short notice.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose constituents include residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn, doesn’t agree, telling a House panel this week FEMA wasn’t armed to respond rapidly.

“Although FEMA and the National Guard set up distribution centers around the city, in many cases people were unable to leave their apartments to pick up supplies and deliveries didn't make it to every building," Nadler told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

FEMA administrator Craig Fugate testified the federal agency had crews, supplies and first responders ready to go before the storm. More than 16 million liters of water; 14 million meals and 15 million blankets have been provided, according to the New York Daily News.

In New Jersey, FEMA has more than 1,098 requests for assistance. It already approved 24 projects, totaling nearly $58 million, according to a FEMA press release.

 

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