(CNSNews.com) - White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said Friday that with Hurricane Harvey - predicted to be the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. in more than a decade - set to hit Texas and possibly Louisiana, residents should not “lose faith” in government.
Bossert cautioned, however, not to plan for the federal government to “swoop in and provide everything” that residents need when they need it.
He said while the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA “are responsible for bringing together the firepower of the federal government to assist the state and local governments,” state and local governments “are in the lead here, and we’ve got a lot of respect for and a lot of faith in the governors of those respective states, as well, directly in the path.”
“So what we’d like to do is reinforce their planning efforts, challenge the people in the path to be prepared, to listen to their institutions and their state and local governments. Now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions. Those emergency managers giving you advice and making recommendations for you to evacuate are doing so with your best interest at heart. We encourage you to listen to them,” Bossert said.
Bossert advised residents to go online to Ready.gov for information on how to get prepared for the storm.
Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) warned President Donald Trump on Friday not to repeat the mistakes that former President George W. Bush made with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
When asked Friday whether Grassley’s warning was in the back of his mind as the administration prepares for Harvey to make landfall, Bossert said, “I was also in and through, and had a role at FEMA during Hurricane Katrina.
“I remember it very clearly and had a role in helping our government write the ‘lessons learned’ report from it, and so I think it’s not just what’s on my mind, but it’s on the minds of all the emergency managers in our community, especially those in Texas and Louisiana. That experience is still in their memory. It’s still in their experience, their muscle memory, and what we've done has gotten a lot better as a government,” he said.
Bossert said Congress has also gotten better by passing laws that allow the federal government the flexibility to employ and deploy resources and assets in advance of the storm.
When asked how difficult it would be “to get aid to the people who need it immediately while you still have buckets of rain coming down,” considering that Hurricane Harvey is expected to be “a multi-day event,” Bossert said, “You never want to plan for the federal government to swoop in and provide everything that you need when you need it just on time, right?”
“It’s going to be 4.6 million people, I guess, in the path of the storm, depending on how the forecast goes. That's a lot of people. We encourage people to be ready, be prepared, take some responsibility for their own safety as the next 72 hours unfold,” he said.
“Of course, food, water, shelter are the primary concerns, but then secondly, when we provide that assistance, we do it in such a way that's so organized -- if things work out the way they're supposed to -- that the assistance flows either directly to the individuals that are eligible for it, or it flows to the state and local officials who have the logistics trail in place to provide that food, water, and those commodities, and the shelter,” Bossert said.
As far as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), “we’ve got a number of organizations, like the Red Cross and others, to manage shelters. Those types of resources are imperative to the people that are confronting this peril, and I’d like to thank them for their work,” Bossert added.
When asked to explain further his remarks on not losing faith in government institutions, Bossert said, “I’m telling you from my own personal experience that it’s important in every emergency, and I’ve been through a lot of them, to remind people to listen to their state and local officials, because, inevitably, people don’t, and then they end up thinking they wish they had. Right?
“So you have nothing to lose but your life, and I want you to take it seriously, and I want you to listen to those state and local officials,” he said.
“In fact, I’m not worried about you losing faith in the federal government. I’m worried about you losing faith in the state and local government that provides you the best information that they have, and so don’t worry about parsing whether they’re right or wrong. If they’re asking you to evacuate and telling you to do it now, listen to their advice,” Bossert said.
“Oftentimes people try to supplant their own judgment for theirs, and what they don’t understand is the number of time and man-hours that go into planning those evacuation routes. You have to coordinate them with other counties farther north, and you have to do road closures and reverse the traffic flow, and there are things that people just might not be aware of,” he said.
“So have a little faith in the professionalism of your emergency managers, listen to their advice, and you’ll be better off for it. And lastly, I’d say if you do, and you’re out of harm’s way, you don’t put a responder’s life in jeopardy later, and you allow us to recover more quickly, which is really the goal,” Bossert added.