Big flak attack

You would be amazed to discover what is needed most in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, according to FEMA. No it isn’t food. It’s not water. It’s not shelter. No you can’t even guess. What apparently is most lacking in those places devastated by the storm are public relations people. WMAQ-TV in Chicago has a story about a group of Indiana firefighters who went to assist Katrina survivors through FEMA. Here is what happened:

“In a document that went out from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency asked for firefighters with very specific skills and who were capable of working in austere conditions. When they got to a center in Atlanta, they found out their jobs would be public relations.
” ‘Our job was to advertise a phone number for FEMA,” said Portage (Ind.) Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lundy. “We were going to be given shirts and hats with a phone number on it and flyers, and sent to shelters, and we were going to pass out flyers.’ “

That’s right. People who are specially trained in rescue and handling the most dire emergency situations were wanted for walking advertisements. The firefighters, who were also trained in tactical medicine, stuck around for awhile to determine if they were actually going to be used for their skills. When they found out they were not, they came home to Indiana. Who can blame them?

Doesn’t the government have enough PR flaks? Each and every government agency I know of has public relations people at every level in every department and out the ying-yang. A lot of private companies also have lucrative contracts with the government to provide for or advise government agencies on public relations.

This PRWatch story lists some of the multi-million contracts different firms have with an assortment of government agencies. It is certainly not an exhaustive list for I know that the mega-everything-corporation Booz Allen Hamilton also is providing PR for the Army.

I certainly can see no reason why FEMA would want to waste the time of firefighters who have valuable jobs to do in their own community by having them hand out fliers. I guess FEMA needs all the good PR that it can get.

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