Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Rant

…Pack A Lunch for This One…Maybe An Emergency Preparedness Kit Would Be Better

Major Mike

Football coaches run reverses because they count on the dynamics and flow of the play to make gains. In the reverse, the flow of the play, save one player, begins in one direction. This flow then demands the same directional flow from the defense. As the offensive flow blends with the defensive flow, suddenly one player, on cue, flows in the other direction. At this point the serious blocking takes place. The offensive line then tries to trap the defensive players in their flow…freeing the end with the ball to run unimpeded in the other direction. The classic reverse.

A couple of things on reverses. The observer should note the logjam of bodies at the point that the defense catches on to the reverse, and the offensive blockers try to keep them from reversing their flow and catching the runner with the ball. The resulting collisions usually result in a heap of bodies at the specific point on the field where this occurs. It might result in a successful gain, but it certainly results in a tangle of bodies that takes time to unravel.

Note what happens when the defense catches on prior to this point…the offensive line ends up near the sidelines by themselves, and the reversing end is generally thrown for a loss.

Major Mike you say…what is your point? Regardless of what you want to believe, it is prudent for emergency response agencies to wait until the situation is fully developed prior to over-committing resources in one specific direction or another.

Example. Last year, Ivan turned north and east prior to making landfall…giving New Orleans about thirty minutes of wind, and about fifteen minutes of rain…I know, I was in the Canal St. Marriot on the eighth floor.

Now had all the resources been committed to New Orleans too early, the resulting counter-flow of goods, likely would’ve resulted in exaggerated delays of the needed materials in Pensacola. As all commuters know…once traffic slows down…it usually stops. Trying to halt momentum, then reverse field in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster is not the way to go. Wait for the situation become clear, then commit assets on viable MSRs. Otherwise, you take a huge chance of getting materials impossibly stuck on the roads. Sometimes waiting is the best course of action…sorry, but true.

Another truth… at some point in time, in some disaster, nature will overwhelm our planning and our resources. Bite down hard on this, and all the blame gamers swallow hard on this. Putting men on the moon turned out to be an exercise in engineering and mathematics. So, even though we are more than capable of capturing those two variables in a controllable situation, the conflagration of variables that are involved in almost every natural disaster, are impossible to calculate and predict to a level that could guarantee results…the impossible standard that people are measuring against.

Nature does not provide us with a guarantee, and neither does our government. Nature promises to challenge us at every turn, our government promises to “do its best.” What did the carpers and complainers in New Orleans promise themselves…to rely on others?

Hard truth...corollary to above. In extremis, there will be challenges that make the usually simple, impossible, or nearly impossible. Geraldo Rivera…how do you evacuate all of the patients in all of the New Orleans hospitals and nursing homes, including those in intensive care, neo-natal, the frail, and elderly, AND guarantee their care, and indeed their lives?

And who is responsible if they die on the evacuation trip? What if they died in evacuation and the hurricane turned in a different direction? What is your response to their families?

There are going to be more examples of those lost in nursing homes…the resources, and the execution windows didn’t correlate with the resources and time required to pull off such evacuations across the vast area that this hurricane impacted. Normally these patient’s safety and health can be assured, in a case such at this, they unfortunately, climb to the top of the potential victims list. Don’t be surprised as this scene is repeated time and again.

Truth continued…my combined military experience and my involvement with the Red Cross locally, lead me to conclude that there are going to be times when even the best organizations bog down, or encounter confusion. This truth does not mean that well-meaning institutions are incompetent, it means that at times…FEMA, the National Guard, the military, the Red Cross…you pick, may stumble, but they are not incompetent nor failures.

All of the institutions that routinely respond to these events attempt to execute well thought out plans. They are sometimes stymied by the disaster itself, sometimes by state and local governments, and sometimes by strained budgets…but NONE are incompetent or deserving of investigation. Get out of their way, and let them execute. BUT, be realistic…while you sit in your lazy-boy, senate seat, or TV anchor chair, remember they are exposing themselves to all the dangers that the victims encounter, all of the same living conditions, and all of the loss of personal control over their lives, that abound in the disaster areas. Your institutional slams eventually, negatively impact the esteem of those on the ground doing good work. Don’t step on it. If the volunteers don’t show up next time…whom will, and how well will it work?

More truth. The distance from the western edge to the eastern edge of Katrina’s severest impact is over 120 miles. A two-hour drive, now nearly impossible to make. Imagine 120 miles of the conditions that you see on TV every night from New Orleans. This is HUGE. Those displaced, number nearly ten times those of Andrew. Remember, this is not simply New Orleans, and getting relief to victims all along the coast is the mission…not just providing relief to those immediately in front of the television cameras. This makes the problem immense, and the solutions to the difficult conditions laborious, and necessarily guarded. Running willie-nillie into the fray will not produce results.

Add truth. Nearly all of those for making state and local decisions in Louisiana are Democrats. All elected predominately through party and local machines. You get what you get paid for. If you think for an instant that competency is an issue in any Louisiana election, you are out of touch with reality. There is no sugar coating got what you elected locally…good or bad. Nuff said.

Individual truth. While residents of this nation can expect assistance, both during and after such events, they are not necessarily entitled to it, nor does this exempt them from assuming some personal responsibility. And, oh-by-the-way, relief is what shows up at your door, or the plate in front of you. It is not made to order, nor is it personalized. It is bulk delivery…and it is what it is. Higher levels of expectations are unrealistic. You can’t have it your way. Relief agencies are sensitive to individual needs, often bringing medical specialists and mental health specialists with them, but excessive expectations and bad-mouthing of volunteer efforts, only diminish the desire of those volunteers to help you in the future. Be civilized and polite. Be thankful. Be realistic. Be more prepared to help yourself.

Final truth. I heard the National Weather Service announcement on Sunday morning, August 28th…it was hair-raising. Does the MSM send the wrong message as their trucks are pouring into New Orleans or as their crews are filming the surfers off the Alabama coast? Realistically, doesn’t this undercut the meager efforts of the incompetent state and local leaders as they are finally trying to evacuate the cities? Doesn’t the accepted power of their medium carry with it an unspoken condition to be responsible? Why do they insist on these hurricane condition background shots in their coverage? What do they prove? What eventual impact does this have for, or more likely, against all governmental efforts? It occurs to me that their actions are often at odds with competent authority desires. Shouldn’t local emergency officials assess these as counter-productive and shut them down at some point?

Please, please, please…let’s continue on rescue, and move on to recovery where we can, but can we please skip recrimination?

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