In another gesture symbolizing the continued confusion of the federal response, the man President Bush immediately named to succeed Michael Brown proves to have been the same FEMA official who, two-and-a-half years ago, suggested that Americans stock up on duct tape to protect against a biological or chemical terrorist attack.
David Paulison (above), then the government’s Fire Administrator, joined with the then-head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, on February 10th, 2003, to say that duct tape and plastic sheeting should be part of any home’s “survival kit” in preparation for a terrorist attack. That set off a run on duct tape at stores, and widespread criticism of the administration. It might have been the first time after 9/11 that a large number of Americans wondered if the government really knew what it was talking about when it came to disaster preparedness.
And the man behind that politically explosive proposal, has just been named to succeed the man who had been the face of the politically explosive response to Hurricane Katrina.
Paulison brings an extensive resume to the post. He ran fire operations for Miami-Dade County in Florida, and was past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. But in light of the response to this hurricane, another comment he made at the time of the Duct Tape announcements rings especially loudly. Paulison said in February, 2003, that in the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans would likely have to look after themselves.
In defense of Paulison, I would like to point out that duct tape is an incredibly versatile product, and I sincerely doubt that anyone who purchased mass quantities in the days following 9/11 hasn’t found dozens of practical uses for it. I realize that Keith Olbermann has made a lot of money being a smartass over the years, what with the glasses, the mom nearly being killed by Chuck Knoblauch, disparaging the city of Bristol, CT and all that, but the American duct tape industry is no laughing matter. Perhaps if the previous FEMA director, Mr. Brown, had airlifted a large supply of duct tape to Louisiana, he’d still have a job?