Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long on Friday criticized Floridians who did not follow evacuation orders or better prepare for Hurricane Michael before the Category 4 storm made landfall this week.
Long said Americans living along the coast have unfortunately “not learned the lesson” of how dangerous hurricanes and storm surges can be.
“It’s frustrating to us because we repeat this same cycle over and over again,” Long said during press briefing. “If you want to live in these areas, you’ve got to do it in a more resilient fashion.”
Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon, bringing sustained winds of more than 150 miles per hour and deadly levels of flooding.
Long said he was worried residents would be afflicted with “hurricane amnesia” while dealing with Hurricane Matthew’s destruction and forget how to prepare for the next storm.
“So how do we build a culture of preparedness?” Long asked. “FEMA tries to do it every year but a lot of people don’t pay attention to anything that we do or say when it is a blue sky day and nothing is happening.”
“People only focus the camera on us after big events like this,” he continued. “And that’s the frustrating part about being FEMA administrator.”
Long said Americans who live in areas vulnerable to natural disasters need to listen to government officials when evacuation orders are called.
He also, however, suggested that local officials failed to protect residents from the weather off the Gulf Coast.
“Until we get building codes passed at local and state levels that are meaningful, then we’re going to continue to see a lot of damage and destruction,” Long said.
Residents in areas prone to extreme weather and flooding also need to have insurance, the FEMA director said.
“Insurance is the first line of defense,” Long said. “We see far too often where people pay off their mortgage and then let their insurance lapse, and then their house burns down.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) warned before the storm hit that it represented “the worst storm that the Florida Panhandle has seen in over a century.”
Florida, Alabama and Georgia have all declared emergencies on the state level.
President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Florida, allowing for additional federal resources to be made available assist in recovery efforts.