Sec'y Napolitano: Use Common Sense to Prepare for Irene

Homeland Security secretary on evacuation orders, recovery process


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF, "YOUR WORLD": Well, if Irene makes good on her threats, people on the East Coast could be in the dark for quite a while.

Power companies are warning about major outages. And that has got business owners worried about looting. Are those fears justified?

With us now, a lady who has to keep track of all these crosscurrents, Homeland Security Secretary for the United States, Janet Napolitano.

Secretary, good to have you.

Where do we stand?

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, right now, we're in the preparation phase for Hurricane Irene.

If you divide it into three phases, there's going to be preparation. That window is quickly closing, then response and recovery. So, we're urging everyone to take the commonsense steps we ask. You can go to if you need to know what those are. If you’re asked to evacuate, please do so.

Have supplies near your home. Please anticipate, even if you are inland, that you could experience long-term power outage.

CAVUTO: The very fact that you've made yourself available today. We always appreciate that, Secretary, speaks of, I would imagine, the enormity of this issue.

Some have been saying it's a bad storm; it's not a lethal storm. What do these guys in Washington know that we don't?

What do you?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we don't want it to be a lethal storm. But that means proper preparation. It is a very large, robust storm. It's going to cover a lot of territory, many states.

It's going to have major flooding associated with the rainfall, in part because of the amount of rainfall we've already had here. The ground is saturated. And, so, preparing not just for the storm, but for the after-effects, is so very important.

CAVUTO: Secretary, do you think some people are being too alarmist, though? And I don't mean to pick either governors and/or mayors of different regions, where, when you're pre-evacuating areas, we are talking about shutting down the transit system ahead of time, without a drop of rain falling yet, are you heightening the fears, and maybe unjustifiably so, and creating a pre-panic?

NAPOLITANO: No, I don't think so.

First of all, your local leaders have to make the best judgments they can based on the information that they have. The time to prepare and get advance of the storm is now, before the rain starts to fall. Once the rain starts to fall, it’s almost too late. So, we rely on our mayors and our governors to make those judgment calls.

I've been a governor. I know they can be difficult.


NAPOLITANO: But the ultimate goal is to reduce the risks to loss of life, and then to be able to recover as quickly as possible.

CAVUTO: You know I know this isn't your purview, Secretary, but if you will indulge me, there are a lot of folks in non-flood zones who just assume if and when these heavy rains come -- and you're right -- at a minimum, we are going to see at least that -- that they are covered by insurance for that.

Now, if you're in a flood zone, it is required that you have flood insurance, but for most of the areas that are going to be flooded, there in non-flood zones. I guess I am belaboring that point to bring up this point. They are going to expect compensation from somebody, but if they are not ensured from it, that -- they are not going to get it, right?

NAPOLITANO: Well, that's -- yes, that is a difficult situation for people to be in.

But I think the initial thing for this day and train is that, even though you are not on the coastal area where Hurricane Irene is anticipated to be, this storm will have inland impacts. And so take some common steps – common sense steps now. Be prepared. Have your family prepared. Know that we will be at this for a few days. And then, like I said, we want to make sure this recovery goes as swiftly as possible.

CAVUTO: All right, very quickly, I know Chris Christie of New Jersey is going to be speaking to reporters momentarily, Secretary.

But do you think, as he's addressing them now – we'll get to him in a second -- do you think that this -- this talk of the New York Stock Exchange and some of the other major exchanges, trading houses, the Chicago Mercantile, and others, saying that they’re going to be open for business as scheduled on Monday, that if any of them, or even all of them, do not, that that would be a security concern?

NAPOLITANO: Well, no, I think -- you know, here's the deal.

We've been through emergencies before. We've been through hurricanes before. It's been a long time since we have been through one that comes right up the Atlantic seaboard. We want to be ready for that and, like I said, get -- get back as quickly as we can to the business of the country.

CAVUTO: All right.

Secretary, a pleasure having you. Be safe yourself. Be well. We appreciate it.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Janet Napolitano.

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