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Career firefighter takes over FEMA

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Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- David Paulison, who recommended in 2003 that Americans stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to be prepared for a terrorist attack, was named Monday as acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Michael Brown resigned as FEMA director earlier in the day, saying his presence had become a distraction from the agency's relief efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. (Full story)

"Chief Paulison has over 30 years of experience in emergency management, working his way up the ranks from firefighter to chief of the Miami-Dade County fire and rescue department," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a news release.

"I appreciate his willingness to take on the vital task of leading FEMA during this challenging time."

President Bush called Paulison on Monday evening and thanked him for taking the job.

Paulison joined FEMA in 2001 as head of the U.S. Fire Administration in Emmitsburg, Maryland, which supports state and local fire service programs.

In 2003, he took on additional duties as director of FEMA's Preparedness Division, according to his biography posted on the agency's Web site.

It was in that role that Paulison recommended Americans stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows and doors in case of a biological, chemical or radiological attack.

In February of that year, after the government raised the terror alert level from yellow to orange, Paulison described a list of useful items for Americans to have in case of a biological, chemical or radiological attack.

In his advisory, Paulison recommended that households have on hand three days worth of water and food; an emergency supply kit for both home and automobile; radios with extra batteries; and plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows and doors.

Sales of duct tape and plastic sheeting soared for the next few days while many critics in the media blasted the suggestion.

As part of his job, Paulison also was responsible for training federal, state and local emergency managers, and conducting exercises.

Before joining FEMA, Paulison was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department in Florida, overseeing its 1,900 personnel with a $200 million operating budget and a $70 million equipment budget.

A paramedic, he also supervised the county's emergency management office from 1995 until 2001. He was selected fire chief of the year by Florida in 1993.

The Miami native began his career as a rescue firefighter in 1971 and rose through the ranks before becoming chief in 1992.

His emergency management experience includes Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades in 1996.

Paulison is a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He has a bachelor of arts from Florida Atlantic University.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.

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