Hurricane Katrina

By now, everyone has seen all the pictures on TV of Hurricane Katrina. Most of us have seen Jesse Jackson or Kayne West on the news talking about how the government “hates black people” and the delays are unconscionable.
As a person who has had training in disaster relief, I would like to offer a different perspective on the “delays”.
1. They are dealing with a disaster area the size of Great Britain. At the time that I am typing this, the disaster area declaration covered 90,000 square miles. That’s a hell of a lot of terrain to cover. They have to come up with the plan and manpower to cover a disaster area the size of a small country.
2. There are only so many trained responders. Right now, there are National Guard troops, Red Cross workers, etc. from all over the country in the affected areas. It takes time to get there, especially with breadth of damage to the infrastructure of the affected areas.
3. The people in New Orleans and Biloxi were looting and shooting at the relief workers. One of the first rules of disaster relief and search and rescue is to keep yourself safe first. You are no damn good to anyone if you get yourself hurt or killed, because then you are part of the problem. Once the shooting and unrest started, the rescuers on the ground had to wait for the National Guard to come restore order.
4. The damage caused by the hurricane itself. Power is out. Roads are damaged. There is a shortage of gas. Relief workers can get in, but they can’t get around. Most of New Orleans is under water, in some cases, up to 20 feet deep.
In a disaster of this magnitude, it is going to take time for help to get there. According to one of my trainers, when the “big one” eventually hits Los Angeles, all the facades on the buildings of Los Angeles are going to come down, causing over 6 feet of debris in the streets of downtown LA. In all likelihood, several of the dams in the area are going to go, causing flooding. In the face of that kind of damage, they said, “We aren’t coming. We are going to be stretched to the limits and not able to deal with all the damage. You HAVE to be prepared for a week or so of being stuck in your house awaiting help.” The same is true for the hurricane areas.

2 thoughts on “Hurricane Katrina”

  1. All true.
    But, I have to ask…was there ever a contingency plan? And, probably even more important than that, why not?
    The L.A. thing is a bit scary, isn’t it? Of course, I shouldn’t talk – I live in NYC (friend of Jules) which is one big disaster waiting to happen.

  2. I personally don’t think contingency plan quite covers the amount of devastation. This is beyond the scope of what people even train for or imagine happening. Now that we have yet another tragic event in our past, I think we will be better prepared to deal with the next one. It took Sept 11th for the country to get serious about terrorism, and I think this will go a long ways toward people being more prepared for a disaster, now that we know how bad things CAN get. Sad. 🙁
    NYC: yeah, I can’t even imagine trying to evactuate that city – no cars, narrow streets, yikes! That being said, one day I want to come back when y’all don’t have the horrible, cold white stuff coming from the sky. I loved my short visit last winter!

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