WASHINGTON — The U.S. government isn't fully prepared to handle a nuclear terrorist attack or a large-scale natural catastrophe, lacks effective coordination, and in some cases is years away from ensuring adequate emergency shelter and medical treatment, congressional investigators have found.
The report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, obtained by The Associated Press before its release, found that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, didn't always keep track of disaster efforts by agencies, hampering the nation's preparedness even after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. That storm hit a large swath of the eastern U.S., including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which received federal disaster money.
"FEMA is not aware of the full range of information," according to the report. The investigation relied in part on internal documents from the Homeland Security Department, which oversees FEMA, including previously undisclosed details from a 2013 disaster plan that highlights needed improvements in the event of an attack from an improvised nuclear device.
The Government Accountability Office said it would still take one to five years to develop a strategy to determine whether people were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation and five to 10 years to plan for a full medical response. Guidance also was lacking as to communication among first responders and making shelters and other basic needs available.
Read Saturday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.