September 05, 2005

The Hurricane Proclamations

Each year since the taking office, George W. Bush has issued a Proclamation declaring a particular week in May as National Hurricane Awareness Week. Here are links to the actual texts of the 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 proclamations.

A quick overview of some of the themes over the years, and how many times they've been mentioned:

Year tropical
FEMA prepare(d),
cooperation coordinate,
2001 0 2 3 2 0 0
2002 1 2 2 3 0 1
2003 8 1 3 7 0 1
2004 1 1 1 4 1 1
2005 4 1 0 5 0 0

From the 2001 proclamation:

Increasingly, many Americans have begun working to ensure that commonsense measures are implemented to protect themselves and their property from natural disasters including floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Their foresight, hard work, and respect for the awesome power of nature often yields great benefits for their communities. They are to be commended for this preventive work, and we should learn from their example as we plan for future disasters.

It further says,

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) researchers and forecasters continue to improve the accuracy of hurricane warnings that enable residents to evacuate and emer-gency personnel to effectively respond well in advance of the storm's arrival. In addition, FEMA and NOAA have focused their resources toward encouraging community leaders to work with Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as volunteer agencies, schools, the private sector, and the news media to collectively undertake activities that diminish the destruction of natural disasters. For hurricane-prone areas, these measures can include residents stockpiling emergency provisions, learning evacuation routes, installing hurricane shutters, building residential safe rooms and community shelters, adopting stronger building codes, and retrofitting existing buildings. These measures have proved effective, and I encourage citizens living in these areas to look for ways that they can better prepare themselves and their communities to reduce the potential devastating impact of these storms.

Bush made a visit to the Port of New Orleans in January 2002, from which the photo below was taken. I wonder how many of these New Orleans workers shown in this photograph have homes tonight? I wonder how many are still alive?

At this rally, Bush said, "When a longshoreman is able to keep more of his own money, his family has more money to spend." The White House caption for this photo further states, "Under the Presidentís economic plan, married couples would pay less tax, the Child Tax Credit would be raised and several million working Americans would drop immediately into the lower 10-percent tax bracket."

When a longshoreman is able to keep his home and family and job because the Army Corps of Engineers has been fully funded to build sufficient levees around New Orleans, then he's more likely able to pay his taxes, Mr. President. How's he supposed to do that now?

In 2002's proclamation he raised the theme of coordination:

With preparation, forecasting, and coordination, we can save lives and improve our Nation's ability to withstand the impact of hurricanes.

The big news from the 2003 proclamation, other than the big spike in the number of times "tropical storm" was mentioned, was that new technology was going to improve NOAA forecasting ability:

Beginning this year, NOAA's hurricane forecasts will look 5 days into the future, rather than 3 days. This enhanced forecasting ability, combined with efforts to improve the accuracy of hurricane warnings, enables coastal residents and emergency personnel to more effectively prepare for a storm's arrival. In addition, Federal agencies such as FEMA and organizations such as the American Red Cross have teamed up with State and local agencies, rescue and relief organizations, the private sector, and the news media to distribute information to the public and coordinate efforts before, during, and after a tropical storm or hurricane has struck.

As for the 2004 proclamation, strangely, we were back to just one mention of "tropical storms". But Bush made a big change this year: these proclamations were no longer about awareness, but now about preparedness. In fact, since the 2004 proclamation he's called these weeks "National Hurricane Preparedness Week."

Notable from the 2004 proclamation is this:

While citizens make preparations to keep themselves safe, the Federal Government is maintaining our commitment to improve forecasts to provide advance warning and to coordinate effective emergency response. The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency is also working on a plan to better position disaster equipment and supplies, so Federal resources to support local emergency services arrive quickly.

I'm wondering if that was the plan the implementation of which the Bush Administration later decided not to sufficiently fund.

For the first time in Bush's career as president, his 2005 Proclamation did not mention FEMA. Three times in 2001, twice in 2002, three times again in 2003, but only once in 2004, and now zip in 2005. So much for FEMA and hurricanes.

"By working together," Bush's 2005 proclamation proclaimed, "Federal, State, and local agencies, first responders, the news media, and private citizens can help save lives and diminish the damage caused by these natural disasters."

How true. We need to work together better.

Posted by brian at September 5, 2005 09:31 AM


Great post!

Posted by: Ken at September 6, 2005 09:23 AM

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