Often times when a huge natural disaster strikes the first bit of a story on the news is about the slow response from the federal government, but the thing is that the nation’s government doesn’t make sense as far as a first response.
First of all, that natural disaster that can wash out roads, flood towns, or cut off any routes in and out of town is also going to prevent people from a long distance away from being able to quickly make their way to where they are needed most.
The first response always has to be local from local responders and whatever limited resources they have available. If they’re overwhelmed, the next step comes from the state level and sends in people from the capital to attempt to help, set up centers, and coordinate any rescues or shelter. They even recruited a Minneapolis Lawn Service to clean up the mess in Louisiana for Katrina! Wow! However this cannot be done at the drop of a hat, it takes time to gather everything, much less to make their way out there.
Finally, the federal government can come in during major emergencies but that doesn’t change the fact that the first bit of responsibility has to be with the people in the area prepared to hold out until help has a chance to organize and arrive.