The End of New Orleans: Now It’s Duct Tape Man’s Turn

Now that Mike Brown has gone home to spend more quality time with his Arabian horses, who will replace him as the director of FEMA?

The answer: R. David Paulison, former U.S. Fire Administrator and current Director of the Preparedness Division of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of DHS/FEMA.

Paulison’s CV isn’t nearly as ludicrous as Brown’s was — he was the chief of the Fire/Rescue Department in Miami-Dade County, Florida, for example, before joining the Feds — which is good to see. However, Paulison’s one moment on the national stage to date isn’t exactly something people remember as a shining moment in crisis management. Keith Olbermann explains:

In another gesture symbolizing the continued confusion of the federal response, the man President Bush immediately named to succeed “Brownie,” proves to have been the same FEMA official who, two-and-a-half years ago, suggested that Americans stock up on duct tape to protect against a biological or chemical terrorist attack.
David Paulison, then the government’s Fire Administrator, joined with the then-head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, on February 10th, 2003, to say that duct tape and plastic sheeting should be part of any home’s “survival kit” in preparation for a terrorist attack. That set off a run on duct tape at stores, and widespread criticism of the administration. It might have been the first time after 9/11 that a large number of Americans wondered if the government really knew what it was talking about when it came to disaster preparedness.
And the man behind that politically explosive proposal, has just been named to succeed the man who had been the face of the politically explosive response to Hurricane Katrina.

At the time, Paulison had the following to say about how quickly citizens should expect the Federal government to be able to respond to a disaster:

U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison said in the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans will likely to have to look after themselves.



September 13, 2005
4:18 pm

I’m gonna sound like a part of the republican attack machine here, just for one moment:
Dear Governor Ridge,
I’m sorry we all laughed at you when you told us to have 72 hours worth of emergency supplies on hand. I’m taking your list and the red cross list to the store right now.
P.S: this chertoff/checkov/checkout guy really sucks and I miss you.

Jason Lefkowitz

September 13, 2005
4:30 pm

If “buy duct tape, you’re on your own” is the best assistance we can expect to receive from our government in a disaster, we’re in big, big trouble.
And even given Chertoff’s manifold flaws, I don’t think it’s fair to lay the blame for DHS at his feet. He has only had that job since February. Even the most heroic administrator would find that’s not a lot of time to fix deep structural flaws in a huge bureaucracy. For better or worse DHS is still what Ridge made it.