Improvements Being Made in Flood Fighting Capabilities in the Jackson, Mississippi, Area

CED-80-36: Published: Dec 18, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1980.

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In order to improve Federal emergency management and assistance, the President issued a reorganization plan in 1978 which called for the establishment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FEMA consolidates a number of civil preparedness and disaster relief functions. A review was made of the Administration's progress in establishing FEMA and the Federal role in the April 1979 flood in Jackson, Mississippi.

The second and final phase of establishing FEMA became effective July 15, 1979, but as of December 4, 1979, 8 of 17 top agency positions had not been permanently filled. Although the President stated that the consolidation could achieve annual cost savings of $10 to $15 million and eliminate 300 jobs, GAO found that no savings have yet been identified and the amount anticipated will probably not be realized until 1982 at the earliest. During the Jackson flood, flood fighting efforts were hindered by a lack of coordination among some of the Federal, State, and local agencies involved. Conflicting agency estimates and predictions, inadequate data, and the untimely submission of rainfall reports all contributed to the coordination problems. Had additional river data been collected, and more timely rainfall reports been issued, the concerned agencies would have had better information to analyze, predict, and control the waters of the Pearl River. Although it was known that a certain highway interchange was the lowest elevation in the flood protection system, and therefore an entrance source for the water, no attempts were made to fortify this area. Better flood preparation and coordination by the agencies could have eliminated or minimized the water from this and other sources. During the flood and postflood relief efforts, the agencies which have been consolidated into FEMA performed their traditional role and did not assume any of FEMA's new responsibilities since it was just being organized.

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