Posted in on June 10, 2008

FEMA is Insane!

At least, if we go by the oft-quoted definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different response:

The government may house disaster victims in trailers this hurricane season as a last resort, despite promises never to use them again because of high levels of formaldehyde found in trailers used after Hurricane Katrina.

Following Hurricane Katrina, residents of the trailers began to complain about breathing problems, burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat, even some deaths. Subsequent examination found dangerously high levels of formaldehyde; though still contested, FEMA blames the chemical levels on hasty construction.

No one wants FEMA to leave those who lost their homes to a flood to rot. But here, FEMA is going down a path they’ve gone down before. And the path is a dangerous one, one that ends with very sick people. FEMA needs to forthrightly explain how they are going to ensure that this won’t happen again, and saying that the test must meet “agency test for low formaldehyde levels” is not going to cut it.

It may seem self-serving, but this is the sort of thing that indicates the importance of the civil justice system to me. There isn’t going to be a criminal prosecution for any sickness caused by the trailers, no individual is going to jail, no agency is getting disbanded. The only way that FEMA or the trailer manufacturers will ever be held accountable is a civil suit. Hopefully, concern over that will be enough to ensure that they take better precautions this time around.

Nathan T. Swanson
Summer Intern
JD Candidate, 2009
University of Denver

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