I’ve been watching the reports coming out of Louisiana, Mississippi and surrounding areas for a while now. While it’s obvious there has been a massive movement of equipment, materials, supplies and manpower to the area, what’s not so obvious is that there’s any sort of cogent plan in place to utilize all the resources at hand.
I read that New Orleans had run a disaster preparedness drill about a month before the storm hit, and yet, the magnitude of the storm, and the materialization of the worst fears of the planners seemed to have stunned the agencies and also their efforts subsequent to the storm.
Unless you've lived through an actual disaster, where everything you've known, come to rely on, people, places, resources, is wiped out over night, it's very difficult to understand the extent of the impact. The local rescue workers, and when I say local we're talking about folks from an area of 1,000's of square miles, have all lost homes, friends and family members. How difficult would it be for you to jump in and know exactly what to do at a time like this?
There are a lot of folks jumping on the ‘Blame Bush’ bandwagon. I’ve heard him blamed for virtually everything that’s gone wrong there. From the fact the levies weren’t high, or strong, enough, to the fact that not everyone in every shelter was evacuated. He may be to blame for some things, but the fact is, 'Katrina' is to blame for the mess, no one else. We humans seem to think we can 'control' nature, we can't. About the best we can do is attempt to prepare for it, and then do our best to recover from the effects after the fact.
It’s pretty easy I think, to sit in our air conditioned living rooms and point a finger at the recovery efforts, spout off about what we would have done, what should have been done, or how the plans were flawed in the first place.
It’s a disaster area; nearly every single evaluation of the destruction that’s occurred there has included some reference to it being of ‘Biblical Proportions’. The coastal area of Mississippi has been leveled, as in totally destroyed, over an area over 250 miles long and 2 to 3 miles wide. Power outages and significant damages are spread over a much wider area.
What we’ve been seeing, over the past several days is triage at work.
For those of you who don’t know, "triage" is defined as:
- the process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.
- the determination of priorities for action in an emergency.
If you think about the expanse of the damage and devastation, the near total destruction of infrastructure (including major traffic conduits) in many areas, it takes some time to evaluate the actual situation and begin to direct activities appropriately.
In this situation, as hard as it is to watch, the folks already in shelters are not the primary focus.
Initially the rescue workers have to determine safe routes in, and out of, the area, While it might be safe to drive a car, van or light truck over certain roads and bridges, driving heavy equipment over those same routes could be disastrous for heavy equipment and troop carriers.
Communications have to be established, command posts, local government liaisons, essentially, in this case, an entire temporary infrastructure. It takes time folks. It can not be done over night, at least effectively.
Plans must be drawn up to begin searching those areas that are accessable for survivors, as those who may have survived, and are not already in a shelter are the 1st priority.
We’re beginning to see now, what appears to be a much more organized rescue effort. Everyone is being removed from the worst hit areas. The levies are being repaired, and once that’s done the pumps will be turned back on and the water removed from New Orleans.
When the water’s gone, those areas that were submerged will be searched, bodies removed and the areas secured.
I suspect, that once that initial pass through is complete (and that alone could take weeks) a decision will be made as to the disposition of those buildings, homes, businesses. Some may be deemed habitable, some uninhabitable, and many will be deemed unsafe and will be torn down without the owners ever being able to return before that’s done.
This is, in my opinion, very likely to become far more tragic, before we begin to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
Why didn’t the city of New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, the country as a whole, do more to protect the citizens there? In short, it boils down to money. The cost of preparing for a ‘worst case’ disaster like this was probably deemed to have been ‘too high’. The odds of it occurring were small, and the elected officials, at every level determined taxpayers would not foot that kind of tax burden.
We all do similar things in our personal lives. How many of you have flood insurance? It’s available to nearly every home/business owner, but only about 1 in 20 actually has purchased it (including me). Why? Cost I would imagine. Flood insurance can cost as much as, or more than the Homeowner policy you already have, and unless you live in an area known to flood, why spend the money?
Could the Gulf Coast region done a better job of preparing for this type of disaster?
Would everyone who was asked to shoulder a portion of the cost, that didn’t live in the immediate area complained about spending money to prepare for something that had ‘never happened’ and 'might never happen'?
We’re at half time here folks. We got it ‘handed to us’ in the first half. It makes no sense to look back and say ‘what could have been done’… it’s time now to look forward, deal with the damage done, decide what needs to be done and get everyone back in the game that is capable of playing.
One of the things I love about this country is the way we all pitch in and do what we can in times of need. States all over the country are sending money, people, equipment and supplies, offering housing, and other services, to displaced residents.
One of the things that always saddens me though is all of the ‘second guessing’, by the politicians, the media, and even us ‘regular’ folks while all of this is in play. In my mind, this is the time to get ‘on the team’, do what needs doing, make all the efforts we possibly can to get that area back on its feet, until that job is done.
Then, ‘after the game’, when all the facts are in; when what went right, went wrong, or could have been improved on, is known, that’s the time to re-evaluate the over all strategy ‘pre-game’ plan. Not now while so much needs to be done.
We simply don’t have all the facts, and neither does the media. The folks with the facts, well they’re too busy doing what needs to be done, to be talking to us, or the media right now!
Anyway… the point of all of this, is, let’s just do what needs to be done, now. Later, months from now there will be plenty of time for finger pointing, name calling and appointing an ‘unbiased’ commission to investigate the entire matter. For now, let’s just get in there and get the job done.
Let's let the folks on the ground there determine what is the best course of action, for the situation. We can disect their decsions later.