Jindal’s office had set up a hotline number, with the number broadcast over the radio airwaves, for anyone who needed help to call. The calls ranged the full gamut, from the expected to the shocking—from no power, to missing children, to medical supplies needed, to “I’m stuck in my attic with a cell phone and a radio. Please come and save me.”
They had a helicopter pilot call in. He had his helicopter, gassed up and ready to go. But he wanted authorization to go in and save people.
Jindal’s staff called FEMA—they said it was a military issue. They called the Marines—they said it was an issue for the Department of Transportation. They called the DOT—nobody knew who to ask.
Jindal called the helicopter pilot back. “Go in.”
“You got me authorization?” the pilot asked.
“Yeah, I’m giving you your authorization right now.”
A local mayor told Jindal a story after the fact that in retrospect seems like a good symbol for the disconnect between D.C. and Louisiana. After the storm, he’d called FEMA in search of help. They were flooded. They had no power. Can you send someone?
“I’m not authorized to do that, I’ll need to ask my supervisor.”
Thirty minutes on hold.
“Yeah, he’s not able to approve that right now,” the FEMA bureaucrat said. “Could you maybe email the details? I can pass it along then.”
The mayor informed FEMA that no, without electricity, they couldn’t email him. FEMA put them on hold, searching for the answer to this unexpected situation.
Another few minutes. Then they came back on.
“Yeah, see, that’s our protocol here. So if you could find someone to email the details, and then maybe put that last part in the email too? That’d be great.”
FEMA was useless. The governor was looking for someone to blame. Time to solve some problems. Time to use that rolodex.
Jindal and his staff started calling like mad, becoming a de facto volunteer and donation coordinator for the corporate, community, and faith-based entities eager to help. We need a truck with clean water—let’s talk to the beer companies, the soda makers. We need medical supplies—I know a guy with the pharmaceutical companies, they’ll donate something. We need people in boats—let’s talk to the megachurches. They’ve got volunteers up north, but no way to get them here—fine, let’s call down the list to everyone who owns a plane or a helicopter.
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