MEMA director questions survey's accuracy

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Jeff Lawson – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) questions the accuracy of a recent survey about hurricane preparedness. The Pew Research Center survey shows 57 percent of the country thinks the U.S. is no better prepared for a natural disaster today than we were before Hurricane Katrina.

"I am not sure the majority of people understand what has taken place since Katrina," Mike Womack told WLOX News.

Womack said much has been done to better prepare those who respond to major disasters. As an example, he points to Hurricane Gustav, which threatened New Orleans. He said the government essentially evacuated that city successfully and without incident.

Womack also pointed out that his agency and others, especially in this region of the country, are better funded than ever before.

"I am very proud of the fact, I think in the state of Mississippi, we have been effective in using the money provided by the federal government and the state legislature."

Womack is convinced, beyond a doubt, we will never see the kind of bungled respond we had in Katrina. But he does have a warning for people.

"Anytime you have a catastrophic event, by definition, catastrophic means you will overwhelm resources, you will overwhelm government at all levels. How good we are is how quickly we rebound."

There was one other thing Mike Womack wanted to emphasize during our interview. He said FEMA leaders are concerned that many Americans seem to think that big brother, our government, will do everything for everybody.

"We as a society need to get away from thinking, 'I need to see what I can get out of the government.' We have to understand we are all part of society, part of the government and we should not take resources if we don't absolutely need them in an emergency situation."

Womack and FEMA's national director, Craig Fugate, are on the coast for the various Katrina memorials and events.

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