The following is a Fox News article:
Hurry up and wait.
That’s what first responders were left to do after being deployed by FEMA to assist in the storm-ravaged areas in the initial days after superstorm Sandy, FoxNews.com has learned. A FEMA worker who spoke to FoxNews.com described a chaotic scene at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, where emergency workers arrived as the storm bore down on the Atlantic Coast. The worker said officials at the staging area were unprepared and told the incoming responders there was nothing for them to do for nearly four days.
“They told us to hurry, hurry, hurry,” the worker, who works at the agency’s headquarters in Washington and volunteered to deploy for the storm recovery effort. “We rushed to Fort Dix, only to find out that our liaison didn’t even know we were coming.”
“The regional coordinator even said to us, ‘I don’t know why you were rushed here because we don’t need you,’” said the worker, who spoke out of frustration with the lack of planning and coordination following the devastating storm.
After arriving in New Jersey, the worker and others waited for three full days and parts of another, even as reports dominated the television of the devastation and suffering wrought by the storm, which struck land on Oct. 29. When they asked for assignments, they couldn’t believe the response, according to the worker.
“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,” the worker said. “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.”
In a Nov. 3 email obtained by FoxNews.com, an administrator back in Washington urged the regional team to get his people into the field after learning they were idled..
“My people are being told to go sightseeing,” the e-mail reads. “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 … Please advise way ahead …”
Told of the worker’s complaints, a FEMA official acknowledged that there were delays in getting responders out into the field but said the time was mostly spent firming up training and accommodations.
“I’m not going to say we couldn’t have done better,” Michael Byrne, a FEMA federal coordinating officer, told FoxNews.com. “I can understand the emotional commitment. They want to jump right in and start with the effort. I feel the same way.