Galena Efforts, Investigation Will Be A Learning Experience for FEMA

Murkowski Encouraged by Inspector General Inquiry

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Lisa Murkowski met with senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General to discuss the findings of their recent site visit to Anchorage, Galena and Fairbanks to observe the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to this spring’s ice jam and flood in Galena.

At Senator Murkowski’s request, Charles K. Edwards, Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security visited Galena on Monday, September 9, 2013 in response to complaints that FEMA was not moving quickly enough to help Alaska river communities recover from the spring flooding. These complaints included allegations that FEMA personnel dispatched from the Lower 48 were unprepared for the cultural and geographic challenges they would face working in Rural Alaska and that the complexity of FEMA programs left disaster victims confused about what assistance they would receive from the federal government. 

Edwards’ team visited with tribal and community leaders in Galena, regional Native leaders in Fairbanks, and federal and state disaster response managers in Anchorage. Edwards has prepared a draft report on his site visit which is presently circulating for agency comment. This report should be made public by the end of this year. The Office of Inspector General intends to conduct an extensive audit of FEMA’s disaster response in 2014.

“FEMA has abilities and a protocol to deal with disasters in the Lower 48, whether it is the East Coast and Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes in the Midwest or floods in the Gulf of Mexico – but the Inspector General has come to the correct determination that their textbook doesn’t work in Alaska,” said Murkowski.  “I am encouraged by the honesty of this investigation because of the great distances of any road system involved in Alaska and our other unique challenges.  We know that this will not be the last natural disaster in our state, and look forward to the changes FEMA implements to change the process for our state.