More Thoughts on Disasters, FEMA, the Blame Game, and the Media
I was going to do another post simply on some of the things I forgot to discuss in my earlier post on Pacific Peril, but then I read the print companion to this article in U.S. News, and felt the need to expand on a few things.
Like most media coverage, the article emphasizes screw ups on the part of FEMA and other federal agencies, linking President Bush mostly by implication, while pretty much ignoring the truly massive incompetence displayed by governing officials of New Orleans (recently re-elected
Bumbling Idiot Mayor Ray Nagin and the equally criminally stupid culpable Governor Kathleen Blanco.
One passage in the print article states that "federal and state officials" found out in late July that New Orleans lacked the busses to evacuate all the people who lacked the means to evacuate themselves, putting the number of such people at 100,000 (a number which would have been roughly 20% of the city's pre-Katrina population.) Now, hurricane season starts on June 1st. Two months in, and these people suddenly discover they don't have the necessary assets to execute their evacuation plan? Isn't that something that should be done before hurricane season starts? And BTW, keeping track of exactly, or even roughly, how many people in a given city will need assistance evacuating isn't the Feds' job-that job belongs to state and local officials. Officials like the aforementioned Nagin and Blanco. Furthermore, I find it doubtful that the city underwent either a sudden increase in people needing evacuation help or and equally sudden decrease in available busses, which means that this problem likely existed for several YEARS, at least.
Next, I'd like to question the 100,000 number. Later in the same article, they state that 45,000 people were evacuated from NOLA after Katrina. To this I'll add another bit of information: one of the speakers at the conference was a Mr. Lokey (I can't recall his first name), who was the senior non-political appointee FEMA official on the ground after Katrina. Mr. Lokey stated that, of all the people evacuated from NOLA, only 12% said that they had stayed in the city because they had no means to get out (over half said that they 'didn't think it would be that bad'.) 12% of 45,000 is 5,400. That's a pretty big step to 100,000.
Elsewhere in the article, the author criticizes the Feds (and, by implication, President Bush) for not reacting (at higher levels, because they didn't know, do to incredibly poor work by the DHS operations center) to reports on Monday afternoon (the day Katrina moved through) of problems with the levees. This displays both an ignorance of what was actually happening as well as how FEMA works. You see, FEMA can have all the assets in the world ready to go, but they don't do anything until a state (or states, as in this case) ask for help. And these requests for help need to be fairly specific as to the type of help-what is needed, for what purpose, where, when, and for how long. Well, Governor Blanco didn't make any requests for federal help until Tuesday. Which means that FEMA was right, according to the law, not to do anything. (In the online version, the author corrects this somewhat. Apparently, the DHS chief can declare a "catastrophic disaster" and push aid without a state request. To me, that seems like a rather massive overreach for the federal government, and the author doesn't seem to consider the federalism aspect of the issue. Then, of course, there's the fact that Southerners have, in the past, gotten a bit worked up about the mere threat of unwanted federal intervention in their business.) This arrangement is predicated on state and local officials, being closer to the action, having a clearer picture of what reality on the ground is. In Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, this was obviously not the case. And who was in charge of New Orleans and Louisiana? That'd be Nagin and Blanco again.
Now, back to Pacific Peril and the possible effects of a West Coast tsunami...
The Army of Davids and the Tsunami Aftermath:
I had a couple of 'Army of Davids' moments, both coming during Rep. Buck's presentation. The first was when he discussed the loss of telephone communications after the quake and tsunami. In the critical first hours and days immediately after, the most reliable way of communicating will very likely be ham radios, meaning that voluntary associations of citizens will be transmitting information to help decision makers directing rescue and relief efforts get a clear picture of the situation.
The second was when Rep. Buck discussed what are called Community Emergency Response Teams, or CERTs. Basically, these are citizen volunteers who are trained in basic first aid and rescue techniques, and who have basic equipments for that. This ties well with a quote from Mr. Lokey that "Some training for a lot of people is better than a lot of training for some people." One of the premises behind this is that, especially in areas directly hit by the tsunami, many of the first responders will be as bad off as everyone else, in many cases having to abandon their heavy equipment-fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances-in order to save their own lives. In such cases, the presence of larger numbers of people trained in basic first aid and rescue, dispersed throughout the disaster area, can save a lot of lives.
And one last quote, on what FEMA is not: FEMA does not stand for 'Federal Extra Money Agency.'
I'm even tall and thin, too.
Although not quite 6'5" or anything.
Great Movie, Too
The Lord Likes to Tease Me
Not a week after I buy the Rasheed, I find this at Auction Arms.