The Red Cross played a key role in providing relief to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, mounting its largest ever disaster response. Under the National Response Plan, and its emergency support function-6 (ESF-6), the Red Cross and FEMA are tasked with working together to coordinate federal mass care assistance in support of voluntary organizations, as well as state and local governments, as they meet mass care needs--such as shelter, food, and first aid. Questions have been raised about how the Red Cross and FEMA operated following the Gulf Coast hurricanes and what improvements can be made for the 2006 hurricane season. This report includes GAO's interim findings on the Red Cross and FEMA's hurricane operations. GAO will continue to analyze federal and charitable hurricane relief efforts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Federal Emergency Management Agency||To clarify roles and responsibilities within ESF-6 for the 2006 hurricane season, the Secretary of DHS should direct FEMA to work with the Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Cross as soon as possible to reach agreement on the operating procedures that they will both use in the event of an incident of national significance. Given the lack of progress FEMA and the Red Cross have made thus far in reaching agreement on the operating procedures and that the new hurricane season is beginning, they may wish to use mediation to speed the agreement.|
|American Red Cross||The Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the Red Cross should implement ESF-6 staffing strategies that better facilitate the development of working relationships and retain institutional knowledge. For example, such strategies might include lengthening ESF-6 staff rotations in incidents of national significance or primarily using permanent staff to fill ESF-6 positions.|
|Federal Emergency Management Agency||To help ensure that FEMA's resource tracking system will meet the needs of those requesting FEMA assistance, the Secretary of DHS should direct FEMA to ensure that it obtains input from the Red Cross as it develops a resource tracking system.|