Friday, September 02, 2005

Who is to blame?

From the Times:

Brian Wolshon, an engineering professor at Louisiana State University who served as a consultant on the state's evacuation plan, said little attention was paid to moving out New Orleans's "low-mobility" population - the elderly, the infirm and the poor without cars or other means of fleeing the city, about 100,000 people.

At disaster planning meetings, he said, "the answer was often silence."

So far, my assessment of the response to Katrina has been mixed. We done some good things and some bad. But, I think the above quote indicates what the real problem is. The Federal government is not responsible for evacuation. State and local governments are.

The State of Texas has its evacuation plan worked out down to the gnat's ass. TS Allison forced us to be better. We have excercised our plans, and I think we're ready. Apparently New Orleans was not.

The Superdome was intended to be a "shelter of last resort"--an Alamo in the storm. Nobody in their right mind should accept the idea of thousands of people in a shelter like this, especially given NOLA's unique geography.

Planner's also know that the federal government cannot instantly mobilized resources. The same goes for the Guard. It takes a couple days to get all the pieces in place to respond once the disaster strikes. I think we've been a little slow, but the response is there.

So the question that we ought to be asking is why did the government of LA and NOLA accept so much risk in allowing so many people to stay? I think the answer will be a mix of incompotence, apathy, and wishful thinking. It won't happen here, right?

But, that's not the important thing right now. We've got to get through this and then figure out what went wrong.

On a personal note, I'm back from doing Army stuff. My boss gave me a heads up that the Austin/Travis County EOC would probably go to 24 hour operations this weekend so I'll be back at work tommorow. We're probably going to be receiving several thousand refugees. I'll keep you posted.

I've also volunteered to go into the disaster zone if needed. An interesting note is that responders deploying into the zone are advised to have all their shots up to date. The required shot list looks like something you'd get before deploying to war.

Other Notes: My old agency, the Texas Divison of Emergency Management , has a page where you can read the SITREPs on the response that our state is providing to LA.

My wife's company Applied Materials is doing a 1 to 1 donations match for any employess giving to disaster relief funds. We've given some money.


At September 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add that, in addition to the classist (and therefore racist) lack of a good evacutation plan, the "shelter of last resort" was also classist (and therefore racist).

It turns out (afaict, from reports and pictures) that expensive "uptown" (high ground) property survived forseeably well, even given the unplannedfor levee break.

Thinking like a survivalist (or militarist): why not set up a few hundred or a thousand shelters in the high-ground by comandeering well-built structures? Logistically, that would have worked better than the superdome.

One problem with the superdome (and then convention center) is that you've collected 10s of thousands in one place with no sanitation and no supplies. Once they are their, and desparate, you can't just drop a helicopter-loads of supplies a few at a time -- that'd create contention for the precious resources and cause more problems than it solved. Similarly, you can't evacuate people in an orderly yet incremental way (remember Saigon).

So, spread the unevacuated refugees across a broader region; put them in comandeered buildings that have ad-hoc resources. Now you can feed them and evacuate them incrementally without causing so much strife that it offsets the effort.

Why *not* think of that plan? Well, of course, the comandeered buildings would be guaranteed to suffer huge property damage/loss. Classism -- hence (in America, at this time, and in that and many other cities: racism).


Let's make "responsible preparedness" a popular value, shall we? Aw, heck, why am I saying *that* on a frikken milblog. Who least needs this message :-)



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