DHS official heads federal response to Hurricane Katrina

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff Wednesday picked Michael Brown, the undersecretary of DHS’ Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) Directorate, to lead the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

In a memo issued to the heads of major federal agencies, Chertoff designated Brown to be the Principal Federal Official (PFO) for incident management purposes.

The PFO serves as the DHS secretary’s representative at the scene and coordinates federal response and recovery efforts there. For domestic incident management, the PFO follows these guidelines:

* It coordinates federal activities and allocates resources at the scene.

* It ensures federal activities mesh with state, local and tribal activities and handles any conflict resolution between federal and state, local and tribal authorities.

* It provides real-time information to the DHS secretary through the Homeland Security Operations Center and the Interagency Incident Management Group.

* It coordinates overall federal public communications strategy at state, local and tribal levels.

* It serves as a main point of contact with state, local, tribal and private-sector officials and the media.

Chertoff chose a PFO according to rules set out in the National Response Plan, which standardizes federal response coordinated with state, local and tribal jurisdictions to any man-made, natural disaster or incident.

DHS and other federal agencies will work with the Bush administration on a new White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Response, which is scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday.

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