Friday, September 02, 2005


Disaster Relief is Not an Easy Task

In an earlier post I blasted MSNBC's Eleanor Cliff for "jumping" on the blame Bush bandwagon. She like a lot of other MSM people are taking about disaster relief without having the slighest idea of how it is accomplished.

In today's WAPO, we again read of even more Democratic blame-gaming, name-calling, and general "bitching" all the while President Bush is on the ground comforting and consoling those affected.

Things are happening now.

Let me put it this way: Four days to get help on the scene in a disaster of this magnitude is pretty damn good. No, not perfect, but damn good. Before you flame me, I worked disasters with the Army for Hugo and lived and worked through Andrew - unlike Eleanor, I know what I'm talking about, I lived it.

Not that I don't have some criticisms, but it isn't the time for that now. It's time to roll up sleeves and get to work.

At 2pm today those trucks came in with blessed relief.

The buses left the nearly emptied Superdome loaded with victims of Katrina towards better accommodations in Texas, and tonight 96 hours after Katrina's impact, things are beginning to come together. Yet, there is a lot more to be done. Which goes to the purpose of this post. This disaster was huge in ways we all would have never imagined.

But don't take just my word for it, read this excellent article by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. The Realities of Catastrophic Disaster.

"Americans are justifiably horrified by conditions in New Orleans. Trying to make sense of this unparalleled disaster and the unprecedented response required to meet it is no easy task. In modern memory, the United States has never experienced anything comparable; there is no standard against which the efficacy of the effort to save lives and property can be judged. The challenge has to be placed in perspective. Congress must keep the realties of responding to a catastrophic disaster in mind as it plans its next steps for recovering from Hurricane Katrina and preparing for future national crises.

Beyond Reality TV

Anyone watching cable news knows what needs to be done. But watching a disaster on television is one thing, and dealing with the realities on the ground is another. Getting into an area that has experienced the equivalent of a nuclear strike, absent the explosion, fire, and radiation is another. It is a monumental challenge.

Estimates of the numbers stranded in New Orleans range up to 200,000. Meanwhile, much of the city is under water. Virtually no infrastructure remains. The problem is not a lack of resources, will, or the organization to provide assistance. The problem is how to get it to the tens of thousands of people who need it. Additionally, every aircraft, vehicle, and team sent into the disaster has to come with its own support package, increasing the logistical burden further. The notion that under these impossible conditions the dire needs of the city could be efficiently addressed in a few days is simply ludicrous. It would be irresponsible to gauge the competence and magnitude of the national response solely by the speed with which resources are brought to bear. How quickly assistance arrives will be dictated by the realities on the ground."

We have nothing to gage this disaster by. We have never experienced anything of this mangitude in this country - ever. Not 9/11, not Andrew. We have NO frame of reference. One week ago today Katrina was a low grade tropical storm - NOT expected to intensify past a category 1.

It was supposed to go through the middle of Florida (incidently the eye passed over my house), spend about 24 hours over land before moving into the gulf. After than it was supposed to hit the pan handle as a tropical storm.

We all know it didn't happen that way.

Like it or not there ARE realities on the ground. When it says "infastructure" that includes Police, Fire, EMS, as well as the radio systems that let them talk to one another. All were wiped out or at least nutrualized in the wake of the storm.

Getting help in isn't as easy as CNN or CBS would have you believe. Simply put, you just don't drop a "pallet of food and water" into a crowd wating below. Unless you want to see little old people and the infirmed mauled by the "stronger".

You can't get trucks down streets with the water up to the roof of 2 1/2 ton trucks. It won't work. Watch the video of the trucks coming into the city today. You'll notice the water which has receded is still up to the doors - not safe, but someone made the decision "Let's get in there".

You can't established order when the local law enforcement crumbles and allows chaos to reign (That's the Mayor's reponsibility).

Additionally, all these supplies aren't sitting in a warehouse somewhere just waiting for a disaster to happen. It would be nice, but for which disaster, when?

The politicians and media people who simply want to use this very major and unprecedented disaster as a political statement and ratings maker ought to be ashamed of themselves. Exploited the suffering of the weak, to me they are no different than the price gougers, the murdering gangs, and the thugs who pray on the victims.

While it doesn't help now, Glenn Reynolds has this reminder:

"The reason why people like FEMA and the Red Cross recommend that you stockpile enough emergency supplies to get through at least a week without food, water, or electricity is that it generally takes at least that long after a major disaster to get aid flowing. Roads are blocked, bridges are down, power plants -- and lines -- are wrecked, and communications are interrupted. For at least a week (and you're much better off to be prepared for two) you may be on your own."

Right now, I have cases of water, batteries, can goods, stockpiled for hurricane season -it's a fact of life in Florida. Those in New Orleans are learning the lessons of NOT being prepared.

Then there is this from CNN. " In a five-day, tabletop exercise last summer, emergency preparedness officials faced an imaginary "worst-case scenario" in which a hurricane hit the New Orleans, Louisiana, area."

Now note this last paragraph:

"One of the drill participants, Col. Michael L. Brown, then-deputy director of the Louisiana emergency preparedness department, told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper that, in a worst-case scenario, there would be only so much government agencies could do.

"Residents need to know they'll be on their own for several days in a situation like this," Brown, who is not related to the FEMA director, told the paper."

Again, it's too late for the people of New Orleans, but if you live in a hurricane or any other disaster prone area take heed.

Also check out AJ over at Strata-Sphere - for more thoughts about this.

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