Just hours after storms in central Florida killed a reported 19 people, former FEMA director Michael Brown told a group of emergency responders that helping people recover after a disaster is as crucial as helping them the day it hits.

Brown resigned from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after taking strong criticism for the agency's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. By coincidence, he already had been scheduled to speak Friday to the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association in Volusia County, one of the areas affected by the storms.

"Today's a no-brainer," Brown said. "Today's a no-brainer, because a lot of your colleagues have gone back to Volusia County, gone back to Polk and Lake County (to assist)."

Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Ryan was sworn in as the association's 2008 president in absentia Friday.

Brown said recovery efforts don't suffer from lack of resources. He said the problem is that the federal government doesn't treat natural disasters as seriously as terrorism.

"Had terrorists blown up the levees in New Orleans, the response and recovery would have been different," Brown said, "and I know that, because I've been there."

Since leaving FEMA, Brown has become a consultant and speaks around the world.