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GAO discussed the federal government's response to recent natural disasters. GAO found that: (1) emergency preparedness seems to have been plagued by coordination difficulties and uncertainty about the roles and responsibilities of the agencies involved in disaster relief; (2) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) might need to provide specific guidelines to help ensure that emergency plans are comprehensive and complete; (3) state officials questioned the currency and relevancy of FEMA training courses; (4) during the immediate response phase after a major hurricane, local, state, and federal agencies were confused about their roles; (5) communications system inadequacies and breakdowns also contributed to delays in relief efforts; (6) the extent of hurricane damage in the Virgin Islands meant that FEMA had to carry out responsibilities normally taken by state and local governments; (7) FEMA was examining the potential for prepositioning staff, equipment and supplies in isolated, disaster-prone areas; and (8) during the recovery phase after an earthquake in California, issues emerged concerning the adequacy of federal housing assistance, particularly for low-income earthquake victims.

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