Remember when Chris Christie was hugging Barack Obama as they posed for photo-ops after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey? He might have spent his time more profitably by making sure officials in the devastated areas were prepared to assist FEMA workers who were rushed to the scene and then told to go sightseeing for four days. A FEMA worker stated:
They told us to hurry, hurry, hurry. We rushed to Fort Dix, only to find out that our liaison didn’t even know we were coming.
He added that when he and his fellow emergency workers arrived at Fort Dix, officials brushed them off:
The regional coordinator even said to us, “I don’t know why you were rushed here because we don’t need you.” They told us to go to the Walmart nearby or to check out the area but told us to stay out of the areas affected by the storm. If our boss back at headquarters had not been alerted and didn’t make a push to get us assignments, the people running the show on the ground level would have just kept us sitting in the barracks.
A Washington administrator admitted in an email:
My people are being told to go sightseeing. They may have a mission in 2-4 days .... I am asking them to reach out to contacts there that may be able to use their expertise ... We will continue to seek these opportunities as otherwise these personnel resources will be wasted ... Please advise way ahead ...
Michael Byrne, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA, protested:
I’m not going to say we couldn’t have done better. I can understand the emotional commitment. They want to jump right in and start with the effort. I feel the same way. The time was used to find the best place for them and for quick-training. There were logistical challenges but we have been fully engaged in the areas since then.
The FEMA worker disagreed:
When there’s disaster, every second counts. That clock starts ticking once the storm makes landfall.
Then he uttered words to make Chris Christie and Barack Obama blanch. He said:
I worked in Katrina and Katrina was run better than Sandy.