Friday, September 02, 2005

This is How We Respond to Catastrophe?

Today President Bush said the Hurricane Katrina relief effort has not been acceptable. That’s putting it mildly. American citizens in one of our larger cities have been forced to live in squalor, surrounded by corpses, without adequate sustenance and terrorized by roving gangs. How can this be happening?

The images and stories from New Orleans are practically post-apocalyptic. And I don’t think that’s exaggerating. They are so horrible that I cannot help but wonder if we as a nation are at all prepared for catastrophe. All the time and money spent after September 11, 2001 to ready ourselves for mass disaster—and this is our response?

This was a foreseeable calamity. Everyone who knew anything about New Orleans knew that a powerful hurricane could submerge the city. Did the plan extend no further than evacuating the city before the storm? Did no one consider what to do with those who would not or (in most of the cases) could not leave?

I don’t think it’s too soon to ask these questions. Right now, while we can still see firsthand what is happening—and not happening—we need to ask these questions. If this is how we respond to a catastrophe we could predict, what on earth is our response plan in the event of an unforeseen disaster such as a massive terrorist attack? If we can't handle a flooded city, how can we handle something worse?

After this is over, after New Orleans is again a functioning city, some will doubtlessly say that the response was adequate given the circumstances. That will be wrong. I cannot believe that the response has been adequate or timely or well-planned. Hurricane Katrina has exposed our emergency preparedness as severely lacking.

I pray that God watches over those poor people still trapped in New Orleans and that all the money and aid all of us have given will get to them quickly. Now we must press forward as best we can and save those still stranded as quickly as we can. But we cannot ignore the failings of our government in preparing and responding to this disaster.


At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Charles M. Johnson said...


At 6:18 PM, Blogger Rob Jackson said...

I only hope that our agencies stop spinning and start being real (to sadly sound like the opening montage of MTV's The Real World).

I applaude Mayor Nagin for his candidness. He, along with LA's state agencies, may be to blame for the people left trapped in the city but he's the only official not mencing words or towing the "we're doing everything possible" line.

His interview last night is on CNN and on my silly little personal blog ( those who have never read or seen an honest, straight-forward interview with a politician.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Tom Strong said...

If this is how we respond to a catastrophe we could predict, what on earth is our response plan in the event of an unforeseen disaster such as a massive terrorist attack?

No joke. Part of the reason why this disaster seems so damaging to the Bush Administration is because they've staked their credibility on a single issue, that of national security. The slow response to the flooding of New Orleans is an alarming indicator that we are very far from being prepared for another terrorist attack of large scale.

As someone who lives in one city (Atlanta) that is extremely vulnerable to such an attack, and who hails from another city (New York) that has a gigantic target painted on it, this is no academic matter to me.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Aaron X said...

Good job Ron, I spent the day creating a transcript of the best parts of that interview.

You can also download the MP3 file of this interview on my site

At 2:57 AM, Blogger Sean said...

anybody who applauds a mayor who is giving radio interviews from atlanta, is living in a fantasy world. anybody who applauds a mayor who refused to even evacuate the hospitals in a mandatory evacuation, is clueless. anybody who applauds a mayor who has no clue what the Govorner or FEMA has planned, is blind. get the message. the mayor is the one most responsible. the first responders are never the federal govt, it is the local govt. thats why Rudy got such props. (he was at the scene) yopu admit he may be at fault for leaving people in a trap that can kill them, then applaud him for honesty? has he admitted he did something wrong? (nope! not one thing, he just curses and acts ignorant. an embarassment.)
can you imagine the mayor of LA sitting in Vegas, with no communication with his chief of police., and complaining? can you imagine the chief of police of LA, Chicago or NYC not having given some type of update and info on operations?

the lack of communications among the police is the police departments fault not Bush. Bush does not have power over the national guard, the governor does.

it is pathetic that people will use any situation, even this disaster to attack Bush. grow up.

tom strong
you say you liev in atlanta. do you honestly think your mayor (a strong intelligent woman) would have had no plan? I dont think so. she would have had a plan, thats why she is considered oen of the best big city mayors in the country.

police are the first responders to terrorists attacks, not the FBI- CIA or FEMA. We have a divided govt for a reason. believe it or not it is to protect us.
The president cannot just send in the military (which he does have power over). He only gets power over the National guard in war time due to agreements between the states and the federal govt.
let me repeat. Bush could not order the national guard to New orleans!
ississippi and alabam had national guards on the scene as soon as the storm hit- why nbot new orleans? (bush blocked their communications, cut the tires on the public buses)

sorry, but how serious will people take an evacuation, when the hospitals have not been evacuated?

peopel are just nuts with unrealistic expectations, and lack of understanding. sorry, but 3-4 days for the federal govt to get involved is not too long.
(bush did not run to ground zero either. why? it was not his job. the local authorities were handling their business..
nobody wants to criticize the mayor because he is black and sounds like he cares (all the way from atlanta); or the governor because she is a woman.

stop making this political and making excuses. our govt is not God or all powerful. thats why we have local govts. talk to somebody who works in crises management, ask them what is most important for keeping order. they will tell you "the local govt having a plan"

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Houston where we are housing many of the refugees. After watching the incompetance of this administration in dealing with this emergency, my nightmare scenario right now is wondering what would happen if we got a hurricane now. Where would our people go to get away. Hotels are full as well as shelters even for places we would go to to evacuate. Please pray for us cause only God could help us now. We know the federal government wont.
It should also be pointed out that this isn't the same response that Florida got. But then these are poor black people, hardly Republican voters and they have the audacity to have a Democratic Senator and Governor and Mayor. I think that may have something to do with the lack of funds for the levee when there was enough pork in the last appropriations bill to have solved this problem. We are building bridges in Alaska that benefit 50 people for God's sake. Where are the priorities?

And one more thing. The conservative approach would have been to fully fund the levee to prevent what was a totally forseeable disaste instead of the billions that we will now spend to fix it and the lives of all those affected. Maybe it is time to have a recall petition for Bush.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Tom Strong said...


Sure, I think Shirley Franklin has a plan. I also think that if Atlanta were struck by a nuke or the CDC were attacked, that plan would not matter one iota. Atlanta simply does not have the resources to handle a large-scale crisis. The federal government does.

If you disagree about the role of the federal government, fine. But know that you are disagreeing not just with me, but with the government itself. The Bush Administration has staked its credibility on one issue, national security. And yet, our expenditures on security and disaster management have gone way up since 2001 - and yet this show of incompetence is what we get.

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

Uh, Sean? I don't know who you are talking about.

Mayor Nagin has been living in the damaged Hyatt hotel in downtown New Orleans the entire time. In the early days, when it was obvious to him that NO ONE was coming to help, he started making noise on the media.

I have no idea where you heard he was anywhere else.


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