Michael Brown, FEMA's Katrina boss, offers S.D. wildfires advice

Orli Cotel of the Sierra Club writes, "I thought it was absurdly ironic that Former FEMA Director Michael Brown (aka Brownie) is pitching himself as an expert consultant for disaster management for the San Diego fires. Has everyone forgotten about Katrina??!!" From a press release issued by Cotton Companies, Brownie's private sector disaster response company:
"The agency has learned some hard lessons regarding the handling of mass evacuations especially in regard to the bureaucratic red tape that is involved in such a process," said Mr. Brown. "This is a tragic time for many of the people of California, and Cotton Companies is working to ensure that normalcy is restored and that businesses and organizations are back up and running as soon as possible."

Cotton has already deployed a team to San Diego to prepare recovery efforts and has a Community Assessment Team in full force.


  1. It would seem to make sense that Michael Brown could offer useful advice, given his past experience. Perhaps he is not a particularly good leader, but he probably knows the system and its challenges better than anyone else in a disaster situation.

    And hasn’t the Sierra Club morphed into some sort of rightist, Libertarian, anti-immigrant organization?

  2. Consultancy is the afterlife for political appointees…it also often can be read as “I’m not very good at this, but I’ll be happy to tell you how YOU should do it, if you pay me a lot of money.”

    Besides, as Kokuryu pointed out, Brownie is definitely an expert at what NOT to do in a disaster situation.

  3. Knowing you screwed up last time doesn’t mean you know what to do this time. I can’t believe anyone would trust Brownie with a burnt-out match, much less disaster relief.

  4. …The actual advice Brown will give:

    Just let it burn. There’ll be a typhoon along eventually to not only put the fires out, but wash away the debris. Let Mother Nature run her course!

  5. I think Mr Brown might have some good advice to offer, regardless of how badly the Katrina debacle was handled.

  6. 8: Not impossible, but it’s by no means certain either. Nothing in the man’s past performance makes me want to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Maybe you’d trust your community, home, and family to him, but personally I’d sooner go with Fire Marshall Bill.

  7. @Crash

    In the case of someone who hasn’t been properly punished for it, yes – it’s impossible for them to learn from their mistakes. This jerk likely thinks he hasn’t done anything wrong. He resigned to avoid being lynched. It’s not like Joe at the local grocery store getting canned for dropping a case of glass-bottled product and saying “Ooops. My baad”. People suffered and died because of Brown’s negligence, complacent attitude, and overall incompetence.

    As a side note, in Japan, a person can be arrested for professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries. How high up the chain of command [as in elected officials and such] this law goes is anyone’s guess.

  8. Jacques:
    I think Mr Brown might have some good advice to offer, regardless of how badly the Katrina debacle was handled.

    It is humanly possible, however his odds of giving good advice are no better than that of any random stranger, and I’ll bet his rates are much higher.

    Is it truly so impossible that someone might learn from his mistakes?

    Yes, he may have learned something. Unfortunately he has no background or training whatsoever that relates to disaster management. His time at FEMA was a low point for the agency. He knew nothing about the job and shows no obvious sign of having learned anything while he was there. He was given the job as a reward, not because he knew anything about it.

  9. Taken from the press release at the link:

    “Mr. Brown can speak to the turmoil being caused by the California wild fires as well as to some of the new processes in disaster relief efforts that will help to restore California communities. He can offer advice to residents and businesses on proper relief and recovery efforts and provide suggestions for future disaster preparedness.”

    Translated from suitspeak:

    Mr. Brown can speak to the turmoil

    He cares. Like you don’t?

    as well as to some of the new processes in disaster relief efforts

    Someone who deesn’t live there has some neat new ideas about what they should do. If it doesn’t work out he’ll get some other ideas for next time.

    He can offer advice… proper relief… provide suggestions…

    Give him money and he will tell you what to do. The question arises of how his advice is any better than that of anybody else.

  10. 7, 8, et al.:

    Let’s say your neighbor hires me to remodel their bathroom. In doing so, I manage to put a tub through their kitchen, soak all the drywall in the house to a moldy mess, and cause the death of their beloved pet/child/begonia/????

    Now, you need your bathroom remodeled. Is it impossible to believe I have learned from my mistakes? Do you now trust me with your family’s health and safety?

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