GAO: FEMA, Red Cross must coordinate logistics better

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross must improve coordination of their logistics operations for the 2006 hurricane season, the lead federal watchdog agency said.

FEMA must consult with the Red Cross to develop a system to track FEMA resources better, according to a June 8 report from the Government Accountability Office.

Last year, FEMA lacked a comprehensive system to track assistance requests from state and local governments and volunteer organizations, which added to the Red Cross’ workload and slowed delivery of relief services, the report states.

FEMA could not determine if the appropriate unit within the agency had received the request, the report states. And the system could not tell if the requested items had been found, loaded, sent and delivered to the right place.

Many requests were lost before FEMA could fill them, GAO said. And some lost requests led to FEMA receiving duplicates.

Voluntary organizations and state and local governments cut back on services in some cases because they did not know if or when FEMA would deliver supplies, the report states.

The Red Cross had to follow up on requests by making phone calls to FEMA, which was often difficult because of the destruction of the telecommunications infrastructure, according to the report.

If Red Cross workers reached the agency, they often found that FEMA officials did not have the necessary information, the report states.

Although George Foresman, the Homeland Security Department’s undersecretary for preparedness, has said FEMA is developing a resource-tracking system, FEMA officials told GAO that the system wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2006 hurricane season, according to the report.

GAO officials recommended that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff order FEMA to work with the Red Cross to develop a sufficiently comprehensive resource-tracking system.

FEMA and DHS officials declined to comment on the report.

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