Thursday, March 05, 2009

Craig Fugate is the new head of FEMA

The President announced yesterday that he was nominating Craig Fugate, the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, to be the Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. I have known and worked with Craig for over ten years. His appointment to FEMA is a great loss to Florida but a gain for the country.

We received an email yesterday morning stating that Craig had called an "all hands" meeting at the State Emergency Operations Center at 1 P.M. We had heard the rumors that he was up for the job and assumed that this was the big announcement. Over lunch the secret leaked into the media and by the time Craig arrived at the EOC the room was full and expectant.

There were still a number of us in that room who had endured that grueling six weeks in 2004 when the state was hit by four straight hurricanes. The following year we were hit by another four hurricanes, plus the large deployment of Floridians to southern Mississippi after Katrina. But there were a lot of new, young faces in that room, and the hurricanes are still just as big and dangerous, but Craig won't be there with us this summer if the storms come back.

Craig doesn't make long speeches, whether he is praising us or yelling at us. He was full of praise for all of us and for the rest of the State Emergency Response Team. We are recognized around the country as the Super Bowl Champs of state emergency management. There were some old hands, no longer with us, that I wish could have been in that room to hear that speech.

All too quickly Craig was finished and walking out of the room, to a standing ovation from everyone present. I am sad to see him go. When he walked through the door I could feel a part of the burden that he carried shift on to my shoulders. Even Super Bowl Champs are only as good as their last game.