FEMA puts boots on ground for Oklahoma tornado response

A rescue worker checks the rubble in a residential area in Moore, Oklahoma May 21. (Reuters) A rescue worker checks the rubble in a residential area in Moore, Oklahoma May 21. (Reuters)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday sent a host of personnel to Oklahoma in response to the massive tornado that ravaged parts of the state the previous day.

FEMA spokesman Daniel Watson said three of its search-and-rescue teams arrived early Tuesday morning. He said the agency also sent a liaison to the state’s emergency-response center on Sunday, well before a tornado claimed dozens of lives while ripping through the city of Moore, Okla.

FEMA has also deployed incident-management teams to the affected region to provide technical assistance and help with any needs that state and local officials cannot meet, in addition to sending survivor-assistance personnel to the state to help people register for federal aid, Watson said.

“I think it’s been pretty high-tempo over there,” Watson added.

Despite the government-wide spending cuts that took effect in March, FEMA’s disaster-relief fund still contains nearly $12 billion, according to the agency.

“There’s sufficient funding for immediate response and recovery,” Watson said.

The automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, reduced the disaster-relief fund by $1 billion, but Congress had added to the account after Hurricane Isaac in August and Hurricane Sandy in October, providing a buffer for potential disasters, in addition to helping deal with those two events.

Despite having adequate funds to deal with the tornado and any upcoming disasters, FEMA has about 500 vacancies in various operations offices that will remain unfilled under the sequester, Watson said.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · May 21, 2013

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