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FEMA chief: Some parts of Puerto Rico response not present, but agency was 'phenomenal'

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday that some parts of the overall response to ...

Posted: Jul 25, 2018 8:36 AM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 8:36 AM

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday that some parts of the overall response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were not present, but his team did a "phenomenal job" despite harsh criticisms the agency received.

Speaking at a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation event in Washington, DC, Long talked about the four "legs" that support an emergency management response during a natural disaster: federal government, state and local government, the private sector and the citizens.

In Puerto Rico, Long said that not all four of those legs were present.

"Going into other areas, like Puerto Rico, there was only one leg that was present and that's the fact, and that's the reality," Long said. "That's not a complaint, but it's what we've got to overcome in lessons learned from 2017 and going forward. We've got to figure out how to build better baseline capabilities at all levels of government."

Long did not specify which leg he thought was present in the response in Puerto Rico or which legs he thought were missing.

Long's comments come almost two weeks after FEMA released an after-action report about the 2017 hurricane season. In the report, the agency stated that the hurricane season "stretched response capabilities at all levels of government."

Despite acknowledging the failures in Puerto Rico, Long stood up for his agency's overall response to natural disasters in 2017, stating, "I could care less what the media says or what anybody else says. My team did a phenomenal job."

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, according to the Puerto Rican government, was 64, but CNN reported in May that an academic report in the New England Journal of Medicine put the number of deaths at 4,645.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from Harvard University and other institutions, surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households on the island earlier in 2018. The researchers compared the results of that survey, asking about deaths in the homes of island residents, with official mortality statistics from 2016. Researchers then estimated the number of deaths that likely occurred as a result of Maria between the storm and the end of 2017.

FEMA's after-action report on the 2017 hurricane season, released July 12, referenced Puerto Rico 130 times and noted that "the fatality count from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was being reviewed by the government of Puerto Rico at the time of this report."

Long said that aside from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the agency responded to a new event "every three days" in 2017.

Looking ahead, Long referenced a strategic plan the administration has developed to improve disaster response. He also stressed the importance of pre-disaster mitigation moving into the 2018 hurricane season.

"We are all pushing for pre-disaster mitigation to be up front because it's a regressive approach in this country to where a community has got to get hit to have access to millions of dollars of mitigation funding," Long said while moderating a panel of three CEOs discussing private sector involvement in emergency responses to natural disasters.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
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Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
Boone554668
Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
Dearborn483245
Noble474059
Jackson426747
Shelby419581
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Clinton374243
Gibson372559
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Jay168223
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Newton91721
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Crawford8069
Martin74413
Warren6857
Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 864322

Reported Deaths: 10711
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101705707
Cuyahoga860661145
Hamilton64392448
Montgomery43309418
Summit35063761
Lucas31500625
Butler31128232
Stark25933435
Warren19746141
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Lake16178154
Clermont16057111
Delaware1445479
Licking13274137
Fairfield1287781
Trumbull12861316
Greene12114139
Medina11666168
Clark10995265
Wood10407158
Allen9945126
Portage9382109
Miami921073
Richland9186118
Marion7467113
Tuscarawas7410182
Columbiana7356124
Pickaway728450
Wayne7080171
Muskingum705241
Erie6188129
Hancock554390
Ross5532100
Scioto541664
Geauga513555
Darke471092
Lawrence457958
Ashtabula454673
Union454628
Sandusky438562
Mercer434489
Seneca431566
Huron430041
Auglaize423064
Shelby421922
Jefferson420569
Belmont417740
Washington391840
Athens38129
Putnam376275
Madison356529
Knox354422
Ashland347438
Fulton339343
Defiance332286
Crawford323874
Preble321437
Brown313921
Logan309132
Ottawa294943
Clinton290743
Williams279467
Highland276718
Jackson265345
Guernsey256326
Champaign252628
Fayette237330
Morrow23334
Perry232018
Holmes225674
Henry220149
Hardin214033
Coshocton205722
Van Wert202645
Gallia198826
Wyandot196151
Pike177417
Adams176915
Hocking172624
Carroll156216
Paulding144721
Noble120740
Meigs109024
Monroe101032
Harrison89421
Morgan83430
Vinton70813
Unassigned00
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