Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Katrina’s Legacy to Emergency Management: Increased Accountability and Capability

As we prepare to mark the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking Mississippi, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency wants to share the two most important principles used in the disaster and continue to this day: accountability and capability.

Accountability
The unprecedented destruction left behind in the wake of Katrina was of such magnitude that it overwhelmed the local, state and federal resources. Despite the challenges, Mississippi, from day one worked to ensure accountability, efficiency and transparency in the entire recovery process. MEMA was tasked with oversight of $3.2 billion dollars in FEMA public assistance funds covering all 82 counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. To date, more than $2.8 billion has been disbursed with an estimate of potential de-obligations at less than one percent. There were more than 11,000 projects approved for public assistance in the state.

“I am extremely proud of the work done by our MEMA staff, other state agencies and all the local governments as they have worked through what seemed, at times, to be an insurmountable task,” said MEMA Executive Director Robert Latham. “We work diligently to educate all of our elected officials around the state on the necessary accountability of documentation and contract regulations before and after disasters to reduce the possibility of having to return funds.”

MEMA is currently managing 15 open federal disasters in the state, 13 of which have occurred since Katrina.

Examples of steps taken to ensure financial accountability:

Brief elected officials and potential applicants of the state and federal regulations of disaster contracting before and after incidents.

MEMA Recovery Specialists are assigned to work alongside every designated city, county state agency and eligible non-profit organization throughout the recovery process.

Created an online database to track all projects and payments that has been recognized nationally by the federal General Accounting Office as a best practice.

No funds are disbursed without proper documentation.
Funds are only provided to applicants for costs deemed eligible and reasonable.

Capability
Increased capability levels of preparedness, response and mitigation efforts have also been a top priority for Mississippi. MEMA supports emergency management programs in all 82 counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

A few of the notable advancements in capability include:

MEMA has trained more than 10,000 first responders in the fundamentals of the incident command system.

The Mississippi Statewide Wireless Interoperable Network: A fully operational system that allows first responders to communicate with one another on mobile radios anywhere in the state.

Wireless Emergency Alerts: MEMA, as well as the National Weather Service and Mississippi Department of Public Safety, have the ability to send emergency messages to all cell phones in any area of the state.

The local, state and federal governments have invested more than $159 million in 85 community safe rooms in Mississippi, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 mph and can hold more than 53,000 people.

All critical facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, have onsite generator backup power and there are more than 200 additional portable generators for other facilities throughout the state.

MEMA has a warehouse stocked with commodities to provide an initial push of essentials like water, meals, cots and tarps to disaster areas.

MEMA has pre-disaster contracts in place for key services like fuel, transportation, ice, water and personnel services.

Local, state and federal governments invested more than $12 million to floodplain acquisition projects which allowed residents to relocate away from high risk flood areas.

MEMA restructured the state’s search and rescue teams to ensure efficient deployment to an affected area to expedite saving lives. The Mississippi Statewide Technical Advance Rescue Teams are positioned regionally throughout the state and are comprised of a wide array of first responders.

For more information, visit the MEMA website at www.msema.org, and follow us on our social media outlets Facebook and Twitter.
Contact:
Greg Flynn or Brett Carr, MEMA External Affairs
601-933-6652 or 601-933-6653