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FEMA Workers Told to ‘Sight-See’ in Confused Sandy Response

Regional officials didn't know that first responders were coming


First responders who arrived at a New Jersey staging location in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy were initially told they weren’t needed and spent almost four days waiting for federal officials to give them assignments.

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worker told Fox News that the agency issued urgent calls for first responders as the storm battered coastal areas of New York and New Jersey, but failed to coordinate planning with local FEMA officials in the affected areas.

Beware of a Sandy Blow to Holiday Sales
Beware of a Sandy Blow to Holiday Sales

As a result, as emergency workers poured into FEMA’s Fort Dix, N.J., staging area, there was confusion. Local officials had not been advised that the first responders were coming and had nothing for them to do. While the responders awaited assignments from FEMA, tens of thousands in the affected region were suffering from the effects of storm surges, which flooded low-lying areas, destroying homes and knocking out electrical power.

The worker said that FEMA officials initially told them to avoid areas damaged during the storm. In an email obtained by Fox News a national FEMA official complained that local FEMA representatives had told emergency workers to “go sightseeing,” and urged the immediate deployment of the responders.

A FEMA official conceded that deployment of first responders had been delayed and that the agency’s response to Sandy hadn’t been perfect, but said that the delays allowed FEMA to determine the most effective ways to utilize the emergency workers.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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