Remember the immediate aftermath of Katrina, when officials insisted on turning away willing volunteers? According to Dave Strano, a left-anarchist activist who wanted to help out after the recent Kansas tornado, the system hasn't changed much:
Shortly after the tornado, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took control of the recovery efforts in Greensburg. The United Way became the coordinating organization for relief volunteers but, after orders came from FEMA, halted the flow of volunteers into Greensburg. FEMA demanded that Greensburg needed to be "secured" before the area could be opened to real recovery efforts.
So, as hundreds of recovery volunteers were told to not come to Greensburg by the United Way, hundreds of police from dozens of Kansas jurisdictions were mobilized to enter the city and establish "control."
Reports coming from the recovery effort in Greensburg had been woefully short of information. We made multiple phone calls to the United Way and other aid agencies, and were told repeatedly not to come, that "We don't need volunteers at this time." We were told that if we wanted to help, we should just make a financial donation to the Salvation Army or United Way.
The authorities eventually allowed volunteers to enter, as long as they reported to a tent operated by Americorps. Strano and his comrades signed in, then wandered the city.
After a short while, we met with several people evacuating belongings from their home. They told us that FEMA had been there for a week, and that all FEMA could offer them was a packet of information. The packet, however, had to be mailed to the recipients, and they had no mailing address!
More FEMA fun:
In the immediate recovery after the storm, FEMA and local police not only worked to find survivors and the dead, but also any firearms in the city. As you pass by houses in Greensburg, you notice that some are spraypainted with how many weapons were recovered from the home. This is central Kansas, a region with extremely high legal gun ownership. Of the over 350 firearms confiscated by police immediately after the storm, only a third have been returned to their owners.
The whole dispatch is here.
After Katrina, Neille Ilel watched some other anarcho-volunteers lend a hand in New Orleans. Her Reason dispatch is here.
More Reason Katrina coverage here.
Update: Looks like there's a benign explanation for the effort to collect firearms.