I was listing to the BBC this morning and they where discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The thought came to me that perhaps FEMA should advocate preparedness for 14 days or more.
Currently they just say you need 3 days of supplies.
What do my fellows think?
After reading the replies, I had to go back and re-read the OP. The question on the table is, should FEMA be advocating individual preparedness for 14 days instead of three? It's got nothing to do with the politics of FEMA, any specific agency's response to any specific disaster, or who's political candidate is better prepared to hypothetically respond to a hypothetical disaster and then be Monday-morning-quarterbacked to death.
In answer to the question, my opinion that three days of supplies for any individual family would be the absolute minimum for your "average" incident - heavy snow, 50-year rain event, peak summer power outage. Most of the food distribution systems in America are "just in time", meaning that the supermarkets rarely keep more than a two to three day supply of food on their shelves for the size of the community they serve. I personally think 14 days are not enough - I have at least a month of food and medication at any given time. There may be a few meals of beans and rice, but we won't go hungry!
It may not be practicle for, say, an apartment dweller in a large city to keep that kind of supplies on hand, so it comes down to awareness - prepare for a "small" incident, and prepare to evacuate for a large one. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes (read East Coast) make plans ahead of time with Aunt Mabel in Oklahoma to come visit for a few days if the weather turns bad. Hopefully you'll never need to use any of the plans or supplies you've prepared, but if you do you'll be happy to have them.
You have to be able to judge the impact of the event on the infrastructure. A heavy snow-storm, usually, yeah 3 days or so; a blizzard over a wide area then maybe more. A hurricane the size of Sandy or Katrina especially mixed with a Nor-Easter in the North East US? Then 2 weeks or longer. Get out if you can, especially if you live in an apartment or near the water.
To expect a Federal Agency to judge for you how much you should stock to prepare? Not too smart.
People need to start somewhere.
What I don't think FEMA articulates very well is; those three days worth of supplies are for "after" the disaster. Three days is the estimated time of arrival for relief "after" the crisis is over. Tornado's, Tsunami's, Earthquakes all take place relatively quick. Hurricanes and blizzards can sit on top of you and spin for days or weeks at a time. You'll need supplies to weather the storm first, then you'll need supplies until help arrives.
What FEMA does do really well is drum "3 days" into everything. The ARC says the same thing. My employer's emergency preparedness booklet specifies that three days is the minimum amount of stuff to have on hand. They also recommend a "small" emergency supply kit be kept in the office and the vehicle.
That "three days" is a pretty accurate assessment of the situation, and not at all arbitrary. "Nine meals from anarchy" is a fairly well known phrase in governments. Seventy two hours is about how long they have to get their s hit together. After that, they're pretty well f ucked.