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ADMINISTRATION SEEMS TO BE FOLLOWING NEW FRAMEWORK AFTER SANDY

Improve emergency response plans

"Will further improve coordination between all levels of government, create better evacuation plan guidelines, ensure prompt federal assistance to emergency zones, and increase medical surge capacity."

Sources: "Obama: Supporting Urban Prosperity"

Subjects: Homeland Security

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THE OBAMETER: PROMISE KEPT

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to "further improve coordination between all levels of government, create better evacuation plan guidelines, ensure prompt federal assistance to emergency zones, and increase medical surge capacity."

In September 2011, the Obama administration released an intergovernmental plan for handling future disasters titled, "National Disaster Recovery Framework: Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation."

The framework is designed to provide "a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. It also focuses on how best to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of the community.".

The framework lays out specifics about how officials of the federal government, states, localities and tribal governments are supposed to work together to handle disasters. Its core areas include rules and guidance on such areas as who has jurisdiction, how pre-disaster planning should be handled and how information can be spread to the public.

For instance, on one of the issues cited in the promise -- medical surge capacity -- the framework prioritizes "pre-disaster contracting and planning to meet the emergency needs of children and adults with disabilities, including the provision of disability-related assistance and functional needs support services, consumable medical supplies (and) durable medical equipment."

How has this framework played out so far? The most far-reaching disaster of the Obama presidency was Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the Atlantic coastline in late October 2012.

During Sandy, "evacuation was taken seriously, with early mandatory evacuations being required -- for which the feds were more in the background (than in the past), providing information about the storm's likely path and need for evacuation," said Peter J. May, a disaster-policy specialist at the University of Washington.

In addition, May said, "pre-disaster planning paid off with early, pre-storm declarations of major disaster in some states and counties É with locating supplies and generators in areas that could use them, and with building 'surge' capabilities with transportation of utility crews from across the country."

Robert B. Olshansky, a professor in the department of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), agreed.

"Obama appears to be operating in the spirit" of his campaign promises on disaster management, Olshansky said. "He is promising to cut red tape, and he is getting positive reviews from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut for his attentiveness to their problems."

No disaster-recovery effort is perfect, but we believe the administration has shown enough improvement to justify a Promise Kept.

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Sources:

Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Disaster Recovery Framework: Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation, September 2011

Federal Emergency Management Agency, "Federal Family and Partners Continue to Support States Impacted by Sandy," Nov. 5, 2012

White House, "Ongoing Response to Hurricane Sandy," Nov. 15, 2012

Email interview with Robert B. Olshansky, urban and regional planning professor at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Nov. 6, 2012

Email interview with Peter J. May, political scientist at the University of Washington, Nov. 16, 2012

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