Justin Elliott and Decca Muldowney
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, citing
sensitive information,” is declining to release a document it drafted
years ago that details how it would respond to a major hurricane in
plan, known as a hurricane annex, runs more than 100 pages and explains
what FEMA and other agencies would do in the event that a large storm
document could help experts assess both how well the federal government
prepared for a storm the size of Hurricane Maria and whether
response matches what was planned.
agency began drafting such advance plans after it was excoriated for
performance and lack of preparation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in
requested a copy of the Puerto Rico hurricane annex as part of its
the federal response to Maria, the scale and speed of which has been
subject of scrutiny
More than a month after the storm made landfall, 73
percent of the island still lacks electricity.
last week, a FEMA spokesman said he would provide a copy of the plan
afternoon. It never came. After a week of follow-ups, FEMA sent a
reversing its position.
to the potentially sensitive information contained within the Hurricane
of the Region II All Hazards Plan, there are legal questions
if any, portions of the annex can be released,” the statement said. “As
the documents that you seek must be reviewed and analyzed under the
Information Act (FOIA) by FEMA.” The statement did not explain what
ProPublica has previously reported, FEMA’s Freedom of Information
process is plagued
by dysfunction and yearslong backlogs. For example, FEMA
to a request for documents related to Superstorm Sandy that we filed
three and a half years ago.
FEMA declined to release the Puerto Rico hurricane plan, we found the
plan for Hawaii posted, unredacted, on the internet by the
Hawaii plan includes granular
details down to, for example, how many specially outfitted
the federal government would send to Hawaii after a Category 4
also describes an
85-step process to restore electricity on the islands.
why the Puerto Rico plan was too sensitive to release publicly while
plan was not, a FEMA spokesman said: “We aren’t able to speak for DoD
State of Hawaii.”
you have information about FEMA or other agencies’ responses to
in Puerto Rico? Contact Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org
or via Signal at 774-826-6240.
originally ran at ProPublica and is
reprinted here with permission. ProPublica is a non-profit news
produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
was a recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for public service, the 2016
Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for
reporting and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
April 10, 2017 ProPublica and the New York Daily News won the Pulitzer
for public service, honoring their joint investigation on abuses in the
York City Police Department’s enforcement of the nuisance abatement
award was the fourth Pulitzer Prize for ProPublica and the 11th for the