FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Friday that ahead of hurricane season local governments need to be aware that the agency is not meant to be used as a first responder system.
“FEMA will always work tirelessly to support state, local, tribal and territorial partners to respond to and recover from disasters. FEMA is not a first responder; disasters are state managed, locally executed and federally supported. Our role is to support local governments following a disaster only after their capacity to respond has been exceeded,” Mr. Long said in an op-ed for USA Today.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricane season in the Atlantic basin runs from June 1 through November 30.
Last year’s historic hurricane season left Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands badly damaged, along with coastal Florida and Texas. Many areas are still in the recovery process as they look towards yet another storm season.
“The actual counting of disaster-related fatalities is the responsibility of local jurisdictions, not FEMA. With respect to Puerto Rico or any disaster, FEMA and its federal partners will continue to support governors with their outcome-driven recovery goals,” Mr. Long added.
A recent report from Harvard University showed that officials may have withheld the actual numbers of the dead in Puerto Rico, and that the toll is far higher than reported.