"Five years ago today, Hurricane Katrina devastated communities all across the Gulf Coast. Like all Americans today, my thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives, and those whose lives were changed by this tragic storm.
"As head of Florida Emergency Management, at the time, I saw the destruction first hand as we sent waves of personal and commodities from the panhandle of Florida through to Mississippi. Today, many of those same communities are still working to recover and rebuild from the destruction left by Katrina and Rita, and FEMA remains committed to supporting those efforts.
"When I came to FEMA over a year ago, I found that all too often we were getting bogged down in process, focusing on what we couldn't do, and not focusing enough on what we can do. Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Napolitano, we have been able to change that mindset and focus on achieving outcomes - including freeing up over $3.4 billion in funds to help rebuild schools, hospitals, transportation systems, and other key infrastructure that communities count on.
"And at the same time, this anniversary serves as a reminder that we must always be preparing for the next disaster. Through exercising, improving our systems, and appointing experienced, senior leadership at FEMA, we continue to prepare every day, to ensure a more robust federal response in support of state and local efforts, but we can't do it alone. That is why so much of our focus is building and improving the entire team. Only by engaging the entire federal family, state and local governments, the private sector, faith-based and non-profit organizations, and especially the public, can we truly be prepared for the next disaster.
"The bottom line is FEMA is not the team, FEMA is only part of the team. I was reminded of this as I toured recovery projects across the Gulf Coast this week. Everywhere I went, whether it was a school in St. Bernard Parish, a hospital in New Orleans, or a firehouse in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, I met people determined to rebuild not just their own lives, but their communities. Numerous non-profit and faith organizations, individual volunteers, and survivors have and continue to play the most significant role in the region's recovery. I was struck by their strength and resiliency this week, as I am every time I visit the Gulf Coast.
"My promise to them is simple, you are not alone, we're here to support your efforts, and I will continue to work every day to strengthen our entire emergency management team."
Fugate marked the days leading up to the anniversary touring recovery projects in Louisiana and Mississippi and meeting with state and local officials. Today, Fugate attended President Obama's speech on the Katrina anniversary at Xavier University in New Orleans.
To learn more about FEMA's ongoing work to support Gulf Coast recovery and rebuilding efforts, visit www.fema.gov/media/2010/rebuilding-lives