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FEMA Had A Plan For Responding To A Hurricane In Puerto Rico — But It Doesn’t Want You To See It

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FEMA Had A Plan For Responding To A Hurricane In Puerto Rico — But It Doesn’t Want You To See It


Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency, citing unspecified “potentially sensitive information,” is declining to release a document it drafted several years ago that details how it would respond to a major hurricane in Puerto Rico.

The plan, known as a hurricane annex, runs more than 100 pages and explains exactly what FEMA and other agencies would do in the event that a large storm struck the island. The document could help experts assess both how well the federal government had prepared for a storm the size of Hurricane Maria and whether FEMA’s response matches what was planned. The agency began drafting such advance plans after it was excoriated for poor performance and lack of preparation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

ProPublica requested a copy of the Puerto Rico hurricane annex as part of its reporting on the federal response to Maria, the scale and speed of which has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism. More than a month after the storm made landfall, 73 percent of the island still lacks electricity.

Early last week, a FEMA spokesman said he would provide a copy of the plan that afternoon. It never came. After a week of follow-ups, FEMA sent a statement reversing its position. “Due to the potentially sensitive information contained within the Hurricane Annex of the Region II All Hazards Plan, there are legal questions surrounding what, if any, portions of the annex can be released,” the statement said. “As such, the documents that you seek must be reviewed and analyzed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by FEMA.” The statement did not explain what legal questions apply.

As ProPublica has previously reported, FEMA’s Freedom of Information process is plagued by dysfunction and yearslong backlogs. For example, FEMA hasn’t responded to a request for documents related to Superstorm Sandy that we filed more than three and a half years ago.

After FEMA declined to release the Puerto Rico hurricane plan, we found the agency’s equivalent plan for Hawaii posted, unredacted, on the internet by the Department of Defense. The Hawaii plan includes granular details down to, for example, how many specially outfitted medical aircraft the federal government would send to Hawaii after a Category 4 hurricane. It also describes an 85-step process to restore electricity on the islands.

Asked why the Puerto Rico plan was too sensitive to release publicly while the Hawaii plan was not, a FEMA spokesman said: “We aren’t able to speak for DoD or the State of Hawaii.”

Do you have information about FEMA or other agencies’ responses to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico? Contact Justin at justin@propublica.org or via Signal at 774-826-6240.




  1. bojimbo26 October 28, 2017

    Of COURSE they have .

  2. idamag October 28, 2017

    It is obvious they had a plan and they immediately put it into play. No bid contracts, probably big kickbacks from the chosen companies to the trumps.

    1. Independent1 October 28, 2017

      Do you suppose this was this just a fortunate coincidence?

      Ryan Zinke’s Neighbor Lands $300 Million Contract to Fix Puerto Rico’s Power Grid

      Whitefish Energy had only two full-time employees when the hurricane hit. But what it lacks in experience it makes up for in ties to the Trump administration.


      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 29, 2017

        Just a lucky coincidence I suppose that Zinke would happen to have personal connections with a 2-man outfit which fortuitously could make the proper offer to get the bid. Shades of Cheney and Haliburton.

        1. Independent1 October 29, 2017

          Hopefully, Zinke may find himself in hot water; even FEMA is questioning the deal that was made:

          FEMA has ‘significant concerns’ with Puerto Rico’s $300m power deal

          The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sounding an alarm over Puerto Rico’s $300 million contract with a small Montana company to restore power infrastructure, amid concerns over the firm’s tiny staff and lack of competitive bidding.


          1. Dominick Vila October 29, 2017

            The Administration, and their lackeys in Congress, will blame Gov. Rosello, a man willing to do whatever it takes to help his people, and nothing will happen. Can anyone imagine what Gowdy would have done if President Obama or Hillary had done something like this?

          2. idamag October 29, 2017

            Based on their past behavior it is not hard to imagine at ali.

          3. Dominick Vila October 30, 2017

            Especially when we consider Trump’s repeated rejection of responsibility whenever something goes wrong. He likes to take credit when something positive happens, and blames someone else, including “his” generals, when disaster strikes. The buck stops anywhere but at Trump’s desk when things go wrong.

          4. idamag October 30, 2017

            Most horrid people have some redeeming qualities. Trump has none. He is not intelligent. He is amoral. He is selfish. He is narcissistic. He is ugly. He has no social grace. He has been photographed with the Gotti and the Gambino gang members. Now, what in H is the matter with his followers?

          5. Dominick Vila October 31, 2017

            Some see him as one of them, others see him as the last hope to the survival of white supremacy and the privileges the enjoy in our society. Most share his hate towards anyone who looks or sounds different than they do. Last, but not least, when it comes to foreign policy, many of his supporters do not understand the difference between fear and respect earned through positive deeds and credibility.

          6. idamag October 31, 2017

            You defined it perfectly. A lot of trump supporters that I am acquainted with have let their racism show and not even been aware of it. For example those who are telling of an incident and say “Black Man.” When I call them on it, they say it was only a description and I remind them I have never heard them say, “This White Man…” I live in an area when the major religion taught racism in their doctrine until 1978. They taught that the Black Man was the descendent of Cain and therefore cursed. Because of this there is a lot of racism in this area, but it is not overt. They are polite to other races and do not try to hold them back, but they do not trust them.

        2. idamag October 29, 2017

          I understand there were not bids. You talk about criminals taking over the government of the U.S.

      2. idamag October 29, 2017

        And, still there are people, who stick up for that mob.

  3. Daniel Jones October 28, 2017

    Allow me to explain why they will not reveal the plans. The plans would have worked, they would have saved many, many lives that have been lost, but they did not provide enough glory to Trump or kickbacks to his sponsors so They Were Not Followed!!

    You’ll never get to see the plans because they would reveal that FEMA now stands for Frequent Emergency Money Allotment!!

  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth October 29, 2017

    The weight of corruption would tip the scales in FEMA’s favor were an elephant on the other scale.


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