Mass Care in Disasters: FEMA Should Update the Red Cross Role in Catastrophic Events and More Fully Assess Voluntary Organizations' Mass Care Capabilities, Statement of Cynthia M. Fagnoni, Managing Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues, before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of Representatives   [open pdf - 1MB]

"Voluntary organizations have traditionally played a major role in the nation's response to disasters, but the response to Hurricane Katrina raised concerns about their ability to handle large-scale disasters. This testimony examines the roles of five voluntary organizations in providing mass care and other services, the steps they have taken to improve service delivery, their current capabilities for responding to mass care needs, and the challenges they face in preparing for large-scale disasters. This testimony is based on GAO's previous report (GAO-08-823) that reviewed the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Convention, Catholic Charities USA, and United Way of America; interviewed officials from these organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); reviewed data and laws; and visited four high-risk metro areas-Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C. In its previous report, GAO recommended that FEMA update and document the Red Cross's role in catastrophic events, take steps to incorporate voluntary organizations' capabilities in its assessments, and clarify funding guidance for certain disaster preparedness grants. FEMA disagreed with the recommendation to better incorporate voluntary organizations in assessments. We continue to believe such efforts are important for preparedness."

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