After 9/11, a master plan for disasters was drawn. It didn't weather the storm.

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Hurricane Katrina turned out to be its first real-world test — but the plan broke down soon after the monster winds blew in.

Its failures raise unsettling questions about the federal government's readiness to deal with future crippling disasters. An examination of how the plan was administered during the crucial early hours of this natural disaster reveal more confusion than coordination and repeated failures of leadership.

The plan on paper was not always apparent on the ground. Cooperation among government agencies faltered at almost every level, right up to the White House. For example: • The Federal Emergency Management Agency, responsible for supervising relief and rescue operations, failed to position adequate equipment to carry out the dual assignments. FEMA was especially short of helicopters from the outset. It was forced to concentrate on rescue missions and gave short shrift to ferrying supplies to trapped evacuees.

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