FEMA administrator on rescue efforts in Puerto Rico

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 22, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, "YOUR WORLD" HOST: To Brock long, the FEMA director, at FEMA headquarters.

Director, you had said that this would be a long ordeal and the worse will come after the fact. And this is proving it.

What is the latest you can tell us?

BROCK LONG, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Well, I just got off the phone with Governor Rossello a little bit ago. And we're continuing to meet his goals of search-and-rescue, pushing forward a large amount of commodities in the forms of meals, water.

We also have multiple emergency generators and different capabilities being placed in different areas to bring up critical infrastructure such as hospitals. And so right now we're still in the lifesaving rescue mode, and then hopefully we will push into the life-sustainment mode over the next 48 to 72 hours.

CAVUTO: You know, Administrator, obviously complicating things in Puerto Rico is this -- and you touched on it with the generators and all of that -- the fact the power could be out for quite some time.

But when I hear the government there talking about months, is that true?

LONG: It's hard to estimate.

So, obviously, we're still trying to obtain situational awareness as to the level of damage. And that's been tough to do today because of communications capabilities being knocked out.

So, as the information comes in, we will be able to reassess and put together a plan. But FEMA is largely only responsible for the emergency power push, to making sure that hospitals and critical facilities are back online.

The greater rebuild of the power structure will be turned over to basically Puerto Rico, the Western Power Authority, as I understand it, in partnership with Department of Energy partners.

So, there's going to be a lot of work to repair and hopefully when it's repaired it's done at a higher resilient manner.

CAVUTO: No one is denying your resilient manner and that of the entire federal force.

But I have got to wonder, Administrator, giving the rapidity of these storms and the fact they stick around, and Maria is still a threat out there, how do you allocate your resources in an environment like this?

LONG: Well, we have been fortunate that Harvey and Irma, the timing of Harvey and Irma allowed us to regroup, allowed our search-and-rescue teams, allowed us to restock commodities, allowed our search-and-rescue teams to also regroup so that we could deploy them not only to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but we also were able to -- on behalf of the White House, we sent two search-and-rescue units to Mexico as well to help out over the last 48 hours with search-and-rescue on the earthquake side.

CAVUTO: I'm curious, Administrator. I was talking to a number of senators and congressmen back and forth on what's happening in their districts, states, in this case the governor of Puerto Rico as well, whether FEMA or the federal government should have more emergency money set aside?

I'm often reminded it doesn't matter whether the money is there. The help is always there and the money comes later. But do you think, given the severity of this hurricane season, even though it's the most severe we have seen in a dozen years, that we should have a pool of capital readily available just in case?

LONG: Well, we do through the Disaster Relief Fund. The question is whether or not the Disaster Relief Fund is adequate based on what we have seen.

And so, after this event, I'm sure that there is going to be numerous after-action reporting processes that take place across the federal government. We have constant communication with our congressional partners and the Congress and update them on a regular basis about cash flow and different things and our ability to do the job.

I have not once feared that we would not have the ability to push forward and dot the life safety, lifesaving response mission going forward. So, the communication is excellent and the Congress has been very supportive.

CAVUTO: Finally, many are coming out places like Florida, sir, even in Houston, of course, with the flood, that they're not covered, individual homeowners are not covered for flood and the type of things that happened here.

What role does FEMA have then in that event? I mean, if they didn't get the insurance or it didn't address the areas where they were in, they didn't think they needed the insurance, what is the role of FEMA in that event?

LONG: Right.

So, we have established, for example, in Harvey recovery command, and we have been working very closely with Governor Abbott in Texas to create innovative programs to help understand what the state of Texas is entitled to, not just from FEMA, but from SBA, from HUD.

How can we innovatively implement our recovery programs and the dollars to best help the unique situation in Texas? And so we're working with Governor Abbott around the clock to do that and to help people out.

And no disaster is the same. So, the way we attack Texas, you know, and apply assistant could be slightly altered in Florida because of the situation there being a lot different.

Texas was a frustrating flood. Florida was basically a run-of-the-mill Category 4 hit that destroyed by storm surge and the water receded and came back. So, each recovery approach is going to have to be tailored to meet the governor's demands.

And what I'm really proud about with the state of Texas is that Governor Abbott has stepped up to the plate. He's owning recovery. We are there to support him. And we're pushing forward. But it's still going to be a long, drawn-out process. We can't just flip a switch and put routine back together in the communities that were impacted.

CAVUTO: All right, Brock Long, thank you very, very much, the FEMA administrator joining us out of FEMA headquarters.

LONG: Thank you.


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