|Skipper rescued after boat capsizes- Salem Statesman Journal- October 23, 2005
The skipper of a 34-foot fishing boat was rescued Saturday afternoon after the vessel capsized in heavy surf at the entrance of the Yaquina Bay bar.
The boat, the Tillamac, was being escorted through the bar by a Coast Guard motor lifeboat, Petty Officer Mike Zolzer said. The Coast Guard quickly rescued the man, Michael Riddle, from the 14-foot to 16-foot surf and took him to Pacific Community Hospital in Newport. His condition was not thought to be life-threatening. The cause of the capsizing was under investigation.
Coast Guard rescues 3 from cliff on Ore. Coast- KGW.com- October 22, 2005
MANZANITA, Ore. -- Three Oregonians stranded on a cliff near Manzanita were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Saturday afternoon, officials said.
A Tillamook County 9-1-1 dispatcher got a distress call at 2 p.m. and then contacted the Coast Guard, who launched a Jayhawk helicopter from Astoria.
The three people -- whose names have not yet been released -- were found on a cliff at Short Sands Beach and then hoisted into the helicopter with the assistance of a rescue swimmer.
The trio was flown to Nehlam Bay State Park where where they were evaluated by emergency medical personnel and released.
The incident prompted the Coast Guard to issue a warning cautioning beachgoers about the changing tide on the Oregon Coast. It can change at a moment's notice, trapping people on rocks, or forcing them to climb into precarious places.
U.S. Coast Guard finishes oil recovery efforts- North Kitsap Herald- October 22, 2005
PORT GAMBLE - While the recovery efforts have wrapped up following Monday’s diesel oil spill in Gamble Bay, the investigation as to what happened is still ongoing.
The U.S. Coast Guard had finished its recovery efforts by Thursday, said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.
The Guard’s contracted clean-up team, NRC Environmental Services, absorbed as much oil as it could recover; the remaining fuel in and around Gamble Bay will eventually evaporate, Eggers said.
Officials now estimate as much as 200 gallons of red marine diesel fuel leaked from the tugboat that had sunk into Gamble Bay, next to one of the piers at the old Port Gamble mill site. Initial reports Monday put the amount of fuel spilled at 100 gallons.
Divers were able to plug the leak Tuesday on the vessel identified as the source of the leak. Active, the 91-foot sunken tug boat, is believed to have sunk sometime late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
The investigation as to why the leak occurred and how the tugboat went under is ongoing, Eggers said. The boat’s owner has been identified as Thomas Lampman, but no additional information about the investigation has been released.
The Washington State Department of Health had asked local tribes to delay geoduck harvesting for a day, however, information from responders indicated that geoduck beds were not affected and harvesting could resume. Even so, the Kitsap County Health District has released an advisory to the public to not harvest or eat shellfish from Gamble Bay until further notice.
U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island) addressed the issue of improving spill response processes in a letter to members on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Tuesday. He urged the committee to implement recommendations made following the 4,700-gallon spill near Edmonds that took place in December 2003. That spill affected a pristine wetland area in Indianola. He also encouraged the committee to commission an independent investigation on ways of improving the spill response process.
“(Monday) marked yet another oil spill to hit Puget Sound in less than two years,” Inslee said, referring to this week’s spill, an estimated 100-gallon oil spill last year in the Dalco Passage, near Tacoma, and December 2003 incident. “We can do a better job preventing and responding to spills here and across the nation.”
In Dalco Passage, heavy-grade fuel oil spilled during the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2004, before being reported. The response to the major spill at Point Wells was delayed by at least 30 minutes because the vessels dispatched to lay the initial containment boom wouldn’t start.
While Caicos Corporation had put its spill response efforts into place Monday morning, the Coast Guard’s spill response contractor didn’t arrive on the scene until around 3 p.m. Monday.
Coast Guard assists in search for missing man
TAHOLA, Wash. — The U.S. Coast Guard assisted police in Taholah, Wash. Thursday after a 24-year-old man walked into the Quinault River and did not return, said Bob Coster, civilian search and rescue controller at U.S. Coast Guard Group Astoria.
The Coast Guard launched two motor lifeboats from station Grays Harbor before sending an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Astoria around 2 p.m. to assist the Taholah Police Department in searching for a member of the Quinault tribe who, nude and with a bible in his hand, walked into the river about five miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean.
The man has not been seen since, Coster said.
After several hours of searching, the Coast Guard suspended activity on the case late in the afternoon Thursday. Taholah police said they will continue to search today with an underwater camera and hope to recover a body by noon.
Homeland Security chief plans to retool FEMA- Government Exec.com- October 21, 2005
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this week unveiled what he called "initial recommendations" for changes at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying Hurricane Katrina was an "extraordinary test" that "simply overwhelmed" the agency's capabilities.
"One of the first things we must do is retool FEMA and enhance this vital agency's capabilities so that it can fulfill its historic and critical mission of supporting response and recovery," Chertoff told a special House committee investigating the government's response to the storm.
But the secretary defended a plan he had unveiled over the summer to make FEMA a stand-alone agency focusing on response and recovery efforts. Under the reorganization proposal, a separate Preparedness Directorate would be established.
Chertoff said the hurricane revealed shortcomings in FEMA's logistics, contracting and procurement systems, communications capabilities, ability to handle disaster-assistance calls and disperse aid, and staffing levels.
FEMA must have a plan for feeding and sheltering 500,000 evacuees or more, an improved system for rapid distribution of emergency funds and other aid, and effective anti-fraud measures, Chertoff said. It also must have the ability to rapidly remove debris so that supplies are not delayed because of impassible roads and so that affected residents can quickly begin rebuilding and repopulating impacted areas, he said.
The Homeland Security Department is setting up emergency reconnaissance teams that will go into disaster zones and report back, Chertoff said. They will include officials from FEMA, the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Secret Service.
"The DHS programs supporting these teams already possess their own communications and aerial surveillance capabilities, such as helicopters and P-3 aircraft," Chertoff said. "Once in position, the teams will be able to relay up-to-the-minute, dependable information on which authorities could act confidently."
He said he also is in the process of designating "principal federal officers in waiting" in cities and areas that could face catastrophes. The officers will work with state and local officials on an ongoing basis so that if a catastrophe strikes, the relationships and processes to respond are already in place.
Additionally, Chertoff said he wants FEMA to be able "to move things around in a nimble way," similar to the "just-in-time" logistics plan used by many large, private companies. FEMA also should have mobile disaster assistance teams that can go into affected areas and find people in need, rather than waiting for people to come to them as happens now at disaster recovery centers, he said.
To improve communications, DHS is "looking at ways to adapt military and advanced private sector communication technology for emergency use," Chertoff said. "FEMA must work to replenish its ranks at the senior level with experienced staff," he added.
"I've brought in some experts from the private sector as well as from the military and inside the government to look at FEMA's business practices, to really re-engineer them for the 21st century," Chertoff told the lawmakers. "And, obviously as that study goes forward, that's going to identify additional things that we may need to do."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., criticized Chertoff's plan to use a "just-in-time" logistics strategy, saying he does not believe it would work during a disaster, especially when roads may not be passable.
"A hurricane is anything but an ideal world," Taylor said. "The aftermath of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack is going to be anything but an ideal world. The roads will not be passable. There will not be electricity. There will not be communications."
The government needs better plans to get people food, ice, water, tents and fuel, Taylor said. Chertoff said he agreed with the congressman.
DHS Receives $2.4 Billion Increase for 2006 Appropriations- Government Technology.com- October 21, 2005
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff applauded increased funding and changes to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) organization during a ceremony at the White House where President Bush signed the FY 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. In addition to certain organizational adjustments, the Department's FY 2006 Appropriations provides increased funding for 1,000 new Border Patrol Agents, greater explosive detection technology across transportation networks, and an integrated Preparedness Directorate to enhance coordination and deployment of preparedness assets and training.
The Department of Homeland Security FY 2006 Budget includes more than $30.8 billion in net discretionary spending -- a 4.7 percent increase over FY 2005. In total, with mandatory and fee-based programs, the DHS budget for FY 2006 is $40.6 billion.
Strengthening Border Security and Interior Enforcement
Customs and Border Protection will receive $5.95 billion in direct funding to strengthen border security with additional personnel, technology and infrastructure including 1,000 new Border Patrol agents and $270 million for construction including $35 million to complete the San Diego Border Infrastructure System and $35 million for other infrastructure needs within the Tucson Sector. Consistent with CBP's proposed consolidation, the appropriators combined all CBP Air assets into a single appropriation. The bill provides approximately $400 million in this appropriation, including $14 million for covert aircraft and $14.8 million for Northern Border Airwing.
Within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the bill provides a total of $3.9 billion in direct appropriations and fees. Significant increases in funding were provided for detention beds ($90 million), Special Agents ($42 million), fugitive operations teams ($16 million) and Immigration Enforcement Agents ($9 million).
Increasing Overall Preparedness and Response
The FY 2006 Appropriations Act provides $4.0 billion for a Preparedness Directorate to enhance coordination and deployment of preparedness assets facilitate grants and oversee nationwide preparedness efforts supporting first responder training, citizen awareness, public health, and critical planning functions to build capacity, protect critical infrastructure, and strengthen cyber systems. Grant funding provided through this Directorate includes $1.155 billion for high-density urban areas, $550 million for basic formula grants, $400 million for law enforcement terrorism prevention grants, $655 million for firefighter assistance grants and $185 million for emergency management performance grants.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center will receive $282 million to train federal law enforcement personnel and construct additional training facilities to accommodate the increased number of Border Patrol and Immigration Enforcement Agents that need to be trained.
Enhancing Technology and Detection Capabilities
The Appropriations Act provides a total of $5.9 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, including $443 million for explosive detection technology. As a result of this legislation, the funding to support the Federal Air Marshals was transferred to TSA as proposed in the Second Stage Review recommendations.
The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is funded at $1.5 billion, which includes $110 million for counter man pads research. The bill also provides $23 million for the National Bio and Agrodefense Facility (NBAF) and consolidates research and development funds within S&T.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office is funded at $318 million to better secure the nation from radiological and nuclear threats.
Strengthening Department Assets and Operations
FY 2006 Appropriations provides a total of $6.8 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard including $933.1 million of the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater program.
Second Stage Review
Earlier this year, Secretary Chertoff outlined a new six-point agenda designed to better equip DHS employees with the right tools to more effectively accomplish their mission and to ensure that the Department is aligned in the best possible way to address potential threats -- both present and future -- that face our nation. The FY 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations Act adopts many of the organization changes proposed in the 2SR process including:
Creating an Office of Intelligence and Analysis to be led by a Chief Intelligence Officer by separating out and elevating the Information Analysis component of IAIP.
Integrating the Department's existing preparedness efforts, including planning, training, exercising, and funding into a single Preparedness Directorate.
Establishing an Operations Office, which will include the Homeland Security Operations Center.
Establishing the Office of Policy and the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
FEMA gives Wilma's threat top priority
The acting chief says nothing is being taken for granted with the approaching hurricane.
Tamara Lytle | Washington Bureau Chief
Posted October 22, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Despite signs that Hurricane Wilma will weaken before it hits Florida, Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison said state and federal officials are treating the threat as a major one and urging residents not to become complacent.
"We are not taking anything for granted," Paulison said in a news conference.
Paulison said evacuations in Florida had gone well so far, with plenty of fuel available. Floridians should listen to local officials, who will decide what areas need to be evacuated as the storm gets closer.
FEMA has 300 truckloads of water, ice and meals ready in Florida at Homestead Air Force Base and Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Urban search and rescue teams are waiting in Orlando and Miami, and nine medical teams are ready in Orlando.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have moved 1,200 detainees from Florida to Arizona and Texas. The Pentagon has provided eight helicopters for evacuating citizens as well as Coast Guard cutters and aircraft. And the Department of Health and Human Services has 200 doctors and 400 nurses on standby.
Paulison said 300 satellite phones and other communications equipment also are being sent to Florida for use in case regular communications are knocked out.
Paulison said that is among the improvements made since Katrina socked New Orleans and the federal government's slow response drew heavy criticism.
One FEMA worker testified earlier this week that his calls and e-mails from New Orleans right after Katrina about the desperate situation there went largely unheeded in the crucial hours after the hurricane and the breaching of key flood controls.
Paulison conceded FEMA did not know enough about what was happening in the region after Katrina.
"We are not going to let that happen again," he said. "We are creating an opportunity for significant situational awareness in Florida."
How the Coast Guard Gets It Right
Where did those orange helicopters come from, anyway? The story of the little agency that could
By AMANDA RIPLEY / NEW ORLEANS
Posted Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005
Wil Milam, 39, is a rescue swimmer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak, Alaska, which means he spends most of his time jumping out of helicopters to help fishermen who break bones and pilots who crash their private planes. "We're pretty much the area ambulance service," he says. Before he was dispatched to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Milam had never been called out of Alaska for a mission and had never done urban search-and-rescue work. But like thousands of other personnel, he was brought to Louisiana to do what the Coast Guard does best: improvise wildly.
Milam made his first rescue late one night near a warehouse outside New Orleans. After dropping him into the black miasma below, his helicopter did something he had never seen in his entire 13-year career: it flew away--so that he could hear the cries for help. He looked around through his night-vision goggles and saw what looked like caskets--in fallen trees, on porches. Yes, they were caskets, dislodged from a nearby cemetery. That night Milam found a man and four dogs and helped hoist them all safely into the helicopter when it returned. The man's pig, however, Milam left behind. "No way I'm taking a pig. The pig will be O.K.," he says. And so it went for 11 days, with Milam experiencing such firsts as flying over a semitrailer sitting on the roof of a house, seeing alligators undulating in the water below and finding himself surrounded by four men with shotguns in a dark, empty hospital. (They were security guards, as it turned out, and just as frightened as he was.) "I'm like, man, they didn't teach me this in swimmer school."
In Katrina's aftermath, the Coast Guard rescued or evacuated more than 33,500 people, six times as many as it saved in all of 2004. The Coast Guard was saving lives before any other federal agency--despite the fact that almost half the local Coast Guard personnel lost their own homes in the hurricane. In decimated St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, Sheriff Jack Stephens says the Coast Guard was the only federal agency to provide any significant assistance for a full week after the storm. Coast Guard personnel helped his deputies commandeer boats and rescue thousands. So last week, when two representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office came to ask how he would fix the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), he had his answer ready: "I would abolish it," he told them. "I'd blow up FEMA and ask the Coast Guard what it needs."
In one sense, that has already happened. After the implosion of FEMA director Michael Brown, President George W. Bush placed Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen in charge of the federal response to Katrina. Before Hurricane Rita even hit land, the Administration placed a Coast Guard rear admiral in charge of that recovery. These are essentially urban-planning jobs--not something men and women who spend much of their professional lives on water are exactly trained to do.
So how is it that an agency that is underfunded and saddled with aging equipment--and about the size of the New York City police department--makes disaster response look like just another job, not a quagmire? How did an organization that, like FEMA, had been subsumed by the soul-killing Department of Homeland Security (DHS), remain a place where people took risks? And perhaps most important, can any of these traits be bottled?
For all its competence, the Coast Guard gets little respect within the military. "Puddle pirates" is one of its gentler nicknames. With 39,400 active-duty personnel, the Coast Guard is tiny. It is the only armed service that resides outside the Pentagon, and although it has been involved in every major war since the Civil War, combat is not its primary mission.
In fact, the Coast Guard has no primary mission--and it may be its eclectic history that explains its success in dealing with Katrina. For 215 years, it has always had to manage a litany of unrelated chores. The Revenue Cutter Service was established by Alexander Hamilton to collect taxes from a brand new nation of patriot smugglers. When the officers were out at sea, they were told to crack down on piracy; while they were at it, they might as well rescue anyone in distress. They made their first drug bust in 1890. Over the years, the Coast Guard fought the maritime "rum wars" during Prohibition, saved tens of thousands of Cuban refugees and became the nation's lead oil-spill cleanup unit. Now the Coast Guard is supposed to protect the nation's 95,000 miles of coastline against terrorist attacks too.
The Coast Guard has always been, in a word, busy--whether during war or peace. "We are deployed every day," says Allen. "We fly every day. We respond to oil spills every day." Also, since the Coast Guard is the only military branch allowed to perform law-enforcement duties, it is accustomed to engaging with civilians. In one day, a Coast Guard boat crew off of California might arrest as many people as it saves.
But perhaps the most important distinction of the Coast Guard is that it trusts itself. On the morning of 9/11, Allen, then commander of the Atlantic Area, was getting a physical in Portsmouth, Va. By the time he got back to the office, shortly after the second plane had hit the Twin Towers, a captain in New York had already closed his port. Another captain closed waterways around Baltimore and Washington. They didn't need to ask Allen for permission, and he, in turn, didn't need to ask his commandant for permission to position three large cutters in New York harbor.
That kind of decentralization is essential if a large organization is to move quickly, as any good CEO knows. But the rest of the government has been moving in the opposite direction, centralizing dozens of agencies into the giant DHS bureaucracy.
On the Gulf Coast, this autonomy and flexibility mattered well before Katrina hit. On Aug. 27, the day before the mayor of New Orleans ordered a mandatory evacuation, the Coast Guard began moving its personnel out of the region. Officers left helicopters and boats in a ring around the area so that they could move in behind the storm, no matter which direction it took. "We have extraordinary autonomy to move assets," explained Allen during a flyover of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region a few weeks after Katrina. "I don't think any other agency has the ability to do that."
Throughout the flooded streets of New Orleans, if Coast Guard boat crews lost radio communication, they still knew what to do. "We give extraordinary, life-and-death responsibilities to 2nd class petty officers," says former Coast Guard Commandant James Loy, now retired and a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, a Washington consulting firm. Anna Steel, 24, a Coast Guard reservist from St. Louis, Mo., began navigating her 16-ft. skiff through New Orleans neighborhoods three days after the storm hit. She and her crewman brought 35 people to dry land at a highway on-ramp marked, appropriately enough, Elysian Fields. As the coxswain, Steel had extensive training in piloting the boat, so she made the decisions. "When we're out on the boat, I'm in charge. Even if my crewman is a lieutenant, which way outranks me, he reports to me. I had that authority within my first two years in the Coast Guard."
You can learn about the culture of an organization from the stories its members tell. One of the Coast Guard's most celebrated rescues was of the crew of the doomed oil tanker the Pendleton in 1952 off Massachusetts. In 60-ft. seas, during a snowstorm, Coast Guard officers managed to pile all 32 survivors onto a 36-ft. wooden lifeboat moments before the tanker capsized. But when the coxswain radioed his superiors for further direction, his commanders argued over the radio waves about what to do next. Instead of wasting precious time, the coxswain switched off the radio and made up his mind to head for shore. Everyone survived, and the Coast Guard crew received gold lifesaving medals. "There's no place to hide in the Coast Guard," says Rear Admiral Robert Duncan, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District, which includes the Gulf Coast states. "So we end up with a culture that is not averse to taking measured risk."
Since 9/11, the Coast Guard has been given a heavy new burden of antiterrorism responsibilities--like protecting refineries, shipyards and bridges at the nation's 361 ports. When it was moved from the Department of Transportation to DHS in 2003, Coast Guard boosters like Senator Susan Collins of Maine made sure it retained all its functions. But, as with FEMA, there is always a risk that the new terrorism focus will detract from its traditional lifesaving role.
Last week, President Bush signed a DHS funding bill that includes $7.8 billion for the Coast Guard, $3 billion more than it received in 2001. But the agency--because of its small constituency and growing responsibilities--remains chronically underfunded. "The Coast Guard is a damn good building block, but you can't expect it to do what it did in Katrina on the current budget model it's on," says Stephen Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander who is now an expert in homeland security at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Its assets are falling apart," he says. Of the 41 major naval fleets in the world, the Coast Guard's is the 39th oldest, behind even Pakistan. It is in the middle of a massive, 25-year modernization project, but Flynn says that's too little, too late.
The truth is, even if the Coast Guard's budget doubled, the rest of the military--and thousands of other local, state and federal officials--would still have to do more, sooner, the next time a major catastrophe hits. So the Coast Guard's most valuable contribution to that effort may be as a model of flexibility, and most of all, spirit.
That's what first attracted Milam, the Coast Guard rescue swimmer from Alaska, to the Coast Guard. Before he joined, Milam was in the Navy. One day he and a friend took a small boat out into the ocean off San Diego. A wave flipped the boat, and it was the Coast Guard that came to rescue them. "I'm looking at the guy sitting in the door of the helicopter and I am thinking, man, what a cool job! I want that guy's job!" After 13 years, Milam has it, and he is still a true believer. "In the Navy, it was all about the mission. Practicing for war, training for war," he says. "In the Coast Guard, it was, take care of our people and the mission will take care of itself."