Friday, September 09, 2005

Thoughts about New Orleans, final

Saw some video online from CNN. One item was that the Lousiana state deputy director of Homeland Security had told the Red Cross not to go into N.O. to aid in the downtown/Superdome areas because it was too dangerous.

Another item was video of the evacuation. The vast majority of people who were able to evacuated when advised to. But there is basically no way to leave the New Orleans area without going miles over a major bridge or causeway type road-- walking out of there is not a trivial undertaking.

It's important to remember that this scenario has been well understood as possible for sometime, computer models generated with respect to levee failure and the like. It certainly seems like there would be some idea of the percentage of people that would be unable to evacuate.

But no real provision was made for the people who could not evacuate, who did not have transportation or needed special transportation. There was video of a school bus depot, post Katrina, flooded, full of school busses mired up to the windows in water. Were people who could not leave but were wanting to, directed to go to pickup points prior to the storm? Couldn't those school busses have been mobilized at that time for that? Also, as big as these facilities were, the Superdome and Convention Centers were apparently not sufficient, nor were sufficient provisions stocked in these locations. They certainly could have served as school bus terminals prior to the storm, however. Not sure if that happened or not.

At any rate, if an uninvolved, comparatively ill informed observer like myself can note these things, why couldn't the people responsible for planning for this generally well understood situation?

Part of this seems like places like private nursing homes and private hospitals are apparently expected to deal with this without government help, and arrange transportation for their patients. They didn't, so their patients died. But if the Red Cross could've been allowed to assist them, that may have been different.

So the long and short is that there were resources that could have been leveraged before and during the crisis that were not, some of those because of explicit decisions not to and others because of omission of their use for what seem to be either overlooking them or unclear authorization.

Also many things about the Federal response have been said, my thought is "What would the ideal president have done?". The ideal president would have taken pains to get network time to announce: "It is very possible that a signficant American city is about to experience a major natural disaster that has been analyzed as having catastrophic consequences. It's the hope that this does not occur, because I'd much prefer to be wrong about this, but here's what's been predicted by experts...". Then, after explaining that, he would have gone over a summary of the response plans, how people are already evacuating, and what organizations were responsible for evacuating those would could not.

Things would still have gone wrong, but not as wrong as they did.

This particular blog is not about politics, so this will be the last post on the subject, but here's what I think we should take away from this:

Have enough food and water on hand and an evacuation plan in case of emergency in your area, a plan with variations that do not rely on mechanical transportation or utilities, because you can't expect outside help.


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