In the wake of the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina last year, the Department of Homeland Security wants to streamline federal relief efforts this year.
The Atlantic Hurricane season begins in June.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be announcing the changes today at a hurricane conference in Orlando, Florida. Chief among the changes, the department is assigning federal disaster responders to 13 states. The idea is to have them standing by to deliver aid and supplies to victims quickly during an emergency.
Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will appoint top-level disaster officials to oversee the federal response in five regions where hurricanes are most likely to strike this year.
The plan has its critics. State emergency managers fear that having top-level overseers will create another level of bureaucracy to deal with in the midst of a disaster.
(The 13 states to have federal disaster coordinators are: Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.)