FEMA Administrator Visits Mississippi

Since 2009 FEMA has funded thousands of projects to restore the Coast after Katrina.
One project included building a brand new school: West Harrison High School. Today, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate met with local and state officials to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Katrina.
As destructive a storm as Katrina was, emergency officials all call her a brutal teacher. For FEMA, there were hard lessons learned from the devastation. “The lesson that we learned at FEMA is you cannot wait until you know it’s bad to start moving,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, “You have to go as if it is bad and if it turns out it isn’t, which is what we hope for, we can always scale back.”
Fugate met with state and local leaders at West Harrison High School in Gulfport, a school birthed as a direct result of Katrina’s destruction. “An important part of recovery is the survivability of our schools, not just to be a shelter but to also be a hub of education to get open and provide those essential services to students and their immediate needs after a storm,” Fugate said.
When the high school was built in 2008, FEMA provided roughly $8.1 million to build a safe room, which holds just over 2500 people and can withstand up to 200 mile winds. Principal Sherry Washburn said, “We have our own water tower, we have our own power, our own generator, our own septic system. So no matter what happens outside of this campus, this campus can function. So, we invite people to come and visit, know what’s here and know you don’t have to evacuate to a relative you can’t get to or to a hotel you can’t afford.”
Hoping for the best but prepared for the worst, West Harrison will help keep the education going and residents safe should another catastrophic storm strike the Coast. Harrison County School District Superintendent Henry Arledge said, “Is that to say we’re going to be perfect? No, we won’t be perfect but we’ll still continue to improve but we’re bringing that team together. That’s what we’re doing today and I see that as a wonderful response to this. That’s really what it’s about.”

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