A federal expert on preparing for disaster told Iowans who’re on the front line of response they need to continue planning and working on partnerships between agencies to be prepared for the proper response. Steve Saunders is a retired general and assistant administrator in the FEMA division responsible for preparedness.
Saunders says federal officials have learned from a variety of disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the floods and tornadoes in Iowa on what is needed to best prepare everyone to respond. Saunders says the good news is that all the pieces he believes are needed for a proper response are in place.
He says the bad news is they are all learned from a legacy of what has happened, and the challenge is to bring them up to speed and marry them up so they are effective collectively. Saunders says he can’t put a timetable on how far away they are from having everything in place. Saunders says improving the response across the board is not easy. He cites the military’s experience with tactics as an example.
He says it took 28 years in the Department of Defense to go from what they did in Vietnam to what they did in Desert Storm one. Saunders says that was 28 years for one entity, so it is a big job to make emergency response changes for every branch of government from the federal to the state and down to the local jurisdictions. He says it all has to be done with sometimes competing interests for money. Saunder says tight budgets have become an issue, but he says that shouldn’t keep emergency responders from training and preparing to be ready.
Saunders says most people will tell you that don’t have enough people or money. He says with the tough economy the though process should be how to best use the resources available to get the job done. Saunders says all entities have to keep talking about how to share the resources appropriately. Saunders reviewed a report on the flood recovery in Iowa and says the state has to look at changing the way it builds along waterways.
He says the state has to look at how to improve by building in different places. Saunders says it is a legacy issue too, as the state needs to determine how to build higher and better so it doesn’t flood again. He says it’s a problem, building along waterways, that many other places in the country share. Saunders spoke at the Governor’s Homeland Security Conference in West Des Moines.