Saturday, September 10, 2005
But much more importantly, emergency management requires a particular frame of mind. In the last week, we've heard much about how no one could have specifically planned for a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. Yet all the reports indicate that the worst management bungles and inadequate response occured on an ongoing basis from the git go.
Responding to large scale emergencies requires minds able to quickly sort through the needs and goals of the situation. There is no concrete script. Emergencies like the one in NOLA are fluid (no pun intended) and dynamic. Continual assessment is necessary to decide where to direct personnel and establish short term goals. This is called adaptability.
Directing these efforts is akin to a military battleplan. Commanders have an overall plan and expect smaller units to carry out specific actions and goals in support of the larger plan. Off the top of my head, I can easily name several overall goals and processes that should have been paramount for FEMA in NOLA.
First, fix the levee breaks and begin draining the city. Second, evacuate centralized gatherings of refugees as quickly as possible. Three, begin systematic searching for suvivors on a strict grid pattern.
Preventing looting is important but only as an adjunct to restoring civil order and saving lives. When property becomes more important than lives, I'd say the priorities are clearly skewed in the wrong direction.
I think that the scaling back and downsizing of FEMA during the Bush administration was an entirely calculated effort. They were betting the odds that an emergency on the order of Hurricane Katrina wouldn't happen on their watch. And that's the story of this administration: They have abdicated any pretense of safeguarding the public good. They hide it with pieties and claiming they are helping people by sweeping the poor out of sight.
The truth is they only have eyes for profit. What profit in emergency planning? Well, maybe for Halliburton and oil companies. The looting of the public trust continues unabated.