Hurricane Harvey will be the first major natural disaster for President Donald Trump‘s young administration. Although Trump still doesn’t have a permanent Homeland Security Secretary, he does have a FEMA Director in disaster management veteran William B. “Brock” Long.
Harvey is a storm of historic proportions and will be worse than the last hurricane to hit landfall in Texas, 2008’s Hurricane Ike. The hurricane is expected to make landfall as early as Friday night. Isolated areas in the Middle/Upper Texas coast could see up to 35 inches of rain, while most areas will see anywhere between seven and 15 inches. Areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama will be impacted, as well as parts of the Florida panhandle.
Here’s what you need to know about Long.
1. Long Says It’s Important for Texans to Follow Evacuation Orders & Calls the Situation ‘Very Serious’
Long told ABC News on Friday morning that Texans need to be taking evacuation orders seriously. As KHOU reports, mandatory evacuations have been ordered for coastal communities in Brazoria County, and all of Matagorda, Calhoun and Victoria Counties. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for all seven counties along the coast.
“Texas is about to get hit by a major hurricane,” he told ABC News. “I’m afraid that people may not be taking this storm seriously. That window to evacuate is coming to a close.”
FEMA is predicting a “very serious” thanks to Harvey and said Texas residents should see “large scale” damage. “This may be the first major landfall hurricane we’ve had since 2005. So there’s going to be damage,” he told ABC News.
Long tweeted a photo of his team monitoring the situation. “We’re monitoring Hurricane #Harvey closely and we’re working around the clock to prepare and support state’s efforts,” he wrote.
“We’ve gone 11 years without a major hurricane land-falling in the U.S.—that’s a one-in-2,000 chance,” Long told Bloomberg. “We’re gonna get hit by a major hurricane. I worry that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like.”
2. Long Is in Favor of Cutting Federal Help for Coverage of Homes in Flood-Prone Areas
In an August 23 interview with Bloomberg, Long said he supports cutting federal relief to homeowners, states and cities in flood-prone regions. He said the threshold for federal relief might be too low and he supports an Obama-era idea to have local governments shoulder more of the costs of hurricane and flood damage.
“I don’t think the taxpayer should reward risk going forward,” Long told Bloomberg. “We have to find ways to comprehensively become more resilient.”
Some of his ideas could require Congressional approval, but Long says FEMA can already begin shifting costs to local and state governments. Congress has a late September deadline to re-write federal flood insurance rules. Surprisingly, these ideas have the support of environmentalists because they believe it will force local governments to think about climate change seriously and beefing up infrastructure to save homes from floods.
Long explained to Bloomberg that he supports blocking federal flood insurance to homes that frequently flood. FEMA estimates that there are over 30,000 homes that are classified as “severe repetitive loss.”
“There are a handful of properties that create a large portion of that cost burden,” Long told Bloomberg. “We’ve got to start there, and at some point cut that off.”
Politico noted that Trump’s proposed federal budget would cut FEMA’s by 11 percent.
3. Long Worked for FEMA as Hurricane Program Manager for Over 4 Years
Long has experience handling hurricanes and working with FEMA. From November 2001 to January 2006, he was FEMA’s Hurricane Program Manager. Prior to that, the Appalachian State University graduate worked for Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency.
Long’s previous experience in FEMA included work in the agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina. He was hurricane program manager for six states – Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
“We’re very proud of him,” his father, William Long, told the Hickory Record after Long was nominated.
Long grew up in Newton, North Carolina and attended Newton-Conover High School. According to his LinkedIn page, he has a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and Master’s in Public Administration/Government Public Management from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He also attended Naval Postgraduate School’s Executive Leaders Program from 2009 to 2011.
According to AllGov.com, Long and his wife Amanda have two sons, William and Isaac.
4. Long Was the Director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency for 3 Years
Long’s most recent position in government before Trump nominated him to lead FEMA was as director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency from January 2008 to January 2011. As The New York Times notes, he handled the state’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
“Brock brings both State and FEMA experience to the job. He knows the programs and challenges he faces. He is an Emergency Manager,” Craig Fugate, the previous FEMA director under President Barack Obama, told Forbes.
During a 2009 speech in Alabama, Long reminded officials that hurricanes aren’t jsut a coastal problem.
“For the 1970 to 1999 time period, 63 percent of all deaths from hurricanes were in inland counties,” Long said of Alabama. “Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. It’s important to have a plan for hurricanes — how to operate when the power is off.”
5. Before Re-Joining FEMA, Long Was in the Private Sector as Executive Vice President for Hagerty Consulting
After leaving Alabama and before Trump nominated him to lead FEMA, Long was in the private sector as Executive Vice President of Hagerty Consulting, a homeland security and emergency management firm based in Illinois. While there, Long provided “strategic direction and leadership for all preparedness and recovery programs, works with prospective clients to understand and solve challenges, offers executive support and subject matter expertise for select projects, and continues to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the emergency management community,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
While at Hagerty, he was featured in Governing Magazine, where he published an essay called “After The Next Sandy Hook.” Published in December 2016, the piece offered advice for communities on how to deal with mass shooting incidents.
“While some planning has occurred related to locating and managing a reunification site, one of the biggest challenges officials face following one of these events is the need to rapidly collect information,” Long wrote. “We should be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity to harness crowdsourcing in the reunification process and include those processes in the planning effort.”