WASHINGTON – With hurricane season just months away, President Bush on Thursday nominated the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be permanent head of the nation's disaster response agency.
R. David Paulison, a 30-year firefighter, took over at FEMA in September, when Bush named him to replace Michael Brown, who quit in the face of unrelenting criticism over the agency's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.
If confirmed by the Senate, Paulison would be undersecretary for federal emergency management at the Homeland Security Department. Paulison currently is acting undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.
Paulison, 59, began as a firefighter in 1971 with the North Miami Beach Fire Department, which was absorbed by the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.
Paulison, who received a bachelor's degree from Florida Atlantic University, was just six weeks into his new job as fire chief in Miami-Dade County when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and causing billions of dollars in damage.
Paulison also led the department through the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades.
Praised for his response to Andrew, Paulison brought hands-on experience and his training in fighting fires and emergency management to his post as FEMA's interim director.
A longtime advocate of home-emergency kits, Paulison made a splash in 2003 when as director of FEMA's emergency preparedness unit he urged the public to stock supplies of duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal windows and doors in case of a terrorist attack. Home hardware stores in several areas ran out of duct tape as a result and manufacturers spurred production to meet the surge in demand.
A certified paramedic, Paulison moved to Washington in late 2001. After FEMA became part of DHS in 2003, he led FEMA's emergency preparedness force until last year. He also has led the U.S. Fire Administration.