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Be Patient, This Gets Amazing

July 7, 2008

All due respect to Jon Stewart, this one blew my mind.

Apparently, FEMA is no longer in the ice delivery business–and apparently doesn’t think that ice, in a disaster, is that big of a deal. You might recall from any of the recent disasters, hearing statistics on how many bags of ice were delivered. This is usually one of the first things reported after a hurricane in Florida. It’s really very crucial to have ice for disaster recovery for a couple of reasons, the most important of which is keeping things cold (FEMA Administrator Paulison would add that it also clinks nicely in a highball glass). Why would you need to keep things cold? Because they get hot, and spoil. What should we keep cold? Food, medicine, things like that.

Now, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. As we know, FEMA is getting out of the housing business, and ultimately out of the logistics business, so this makes sense. FEMA should be an emergency management agency, not the one stop shop that they’ve been trying to be. Delivering food and ice and setting up trailers might not be the best use for their funds and manpower–I get that.

My real problem with this “announcement” is the attitude of it all. This cavalier way of saying, yep, we thought about it, and ice ain’t important, so we’re not gunna do it. Call somebody else, tain’t our problem. See for yourself:

“We’re not in the ice business anymore,” Paulison said, and that it is not a “life-saving commodity” for most people. “It takes a tremendous amount of resources, and it really doesn’t accomplish much, other than making people feel good because they have a bag of ice,” Paulison added. “Ice is more of a comfort thing.”

Now, he did also say that FEMA would distribute ice for medical emergencies and in life-threatening situations, which begs the question, when is a disaster recovery scenario not a medical emergency or life-threatening situation? Does that mean that FEMA’s just been giving ice away to anyone who asks?

Of course not. It just gets back to the attitude of a random, not very well thought out decision that will be applied haphazardly and serves no real purpose other than making a statement about how in control they are of the situation.

My solution? I agree that FEMA shouldn’t be in the ice delivery business–at all. They should be in the business of securing MOU’s and working with state and local response agencies to do the same, to procure ice (and other life-saving resources) in a disaster from local, regional and partner businesses and governments. And who knows? Maybe they are doing that. It’s just that, “Ice is more of a comfort thing,” makes me think otherwise.

Thanks to John Bowen for the heads up.

Photo credit: Darren Hester

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