I scored some power at Borders, and I thought about this while on my walk so I thought before I dug into the meat of what I need to do today I would put out some thoughts.
Really most of what I could say has already been said: The response from organizations like FEMA was horrible, the president seemed to treat the whole affair rather lightly, and really there is no excuse for that kind of response. Yes my prayers go out to everyone affected by this - especially to those who survived. Yes, I will make a donation to the Red Cross. I have yet to know exactly how much - I always set aside some money out of every pay to give to various charitable organizations and I don't know how much, off the top of my head, is in the kitty right now. I decided that all that is there is going to the Red Cross (who is on my short list of regular donations anyways), and I will definately get that matched by my company.
One thing that pissed me off is before the relief effort had really gotten underway the finger pointing started. Everything from bureacratic red tape to we did not expect this to happen. FEMA was a good organization who was nimble. Standard emergency preparedness coming out of FEMA was each person should plan for 3 days of food & water to tide themselves over until FEMA can get setup. And by and large they usually get there in that time frame. However this was the first real test of FEMA as a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Things did not work out well.
What surprised me is the people who claimed "we had no idea this was coming." Aside from the fact we knew where the hurricane was going, the flooding of New Orleans just as what happened was anticipated. Hey, even I could tell you that the levees would be a great target for terrorists. The problem caused by Katrina is not a far stretch from some yoyo with a bomb. I also like the "we did not know how bad it was" comments. Apparently getting someone to watch CNN or just about any other news network/program is not done anymore.
Now I am not sure how the response was in other areas affected. Most of the news coverage is over the mess that was known as New Orleans. I would hope that other affected areas had a better response. Even the Red Cross seemed to move slowly, but then again they can only go in once an area is reasonably safe for the workers.
However I hope that some of the bloggers and others start a discussion on what we can learn from this. I can point fingers and shift blame as much as the next guy. However I think it would be a better use of time and energy to learn from this fiasco, and the sooner the better before everyone forgets about how bad it was.
First off I hope that some of the "looters" - people who were stealing food, water, needed medicine since they could not get that help from the government sources that were supposed to provide it will not be prosecuted. Then again I hope that those who were raping, killing, and stealing stuff get maximum sentences. In fact personally I would like to see these people have to serve large chunks of community service helping to rebuild the damaged areas. The worst case I heard of is a kid who took a school bus and was moving people to shelters and they are talking about jailing him for looting. Get a clue! He was doing what the cops, National Guard, and FEMA should have been doing.
One thing that has come out of this is the need to evacuate people without a way to evacuate. How many poor people died becuase when the evacuation order was given they had no way to get out? Telling people to get out and having a way to get out are two different things. Again, to me this is a huge flash of the obvious, but I have been told I was alloted a lot of common sense somewhere in my life. Maybe the coastal areas of Florida that normally get hammered by hurricanes have this under control. Maybe someone should share this info?
Next we definately need to look at the slow response from FEMA. Again, I do not know how they did in other areas, but if that was anything close to how they handled New Orleans they need to be a bit quicker. Red tape? Maybe we need to move FEMA back to an independent organization. Could they not get in quick enough because of the roads? Maybe we need to build up some infrastructure. Obviously we need to do something about the levees in New Orleans, if the city is going to be rebuilt. If FEMA tries to use the "we did not know how bad it was" defense the person who said that should be taken out and sacked, and that will involve a baseball bat and some dangly bits. It is your job to know how bad it is. Personally I always follow the addage "plan for the worst, hope for the best." Not hard. You may over react sometimes, but frankly I would think it would be better to have too much ready to go than to get caught with your pants down.
The security of the area was obviously a problem. There were a lot of cops walking off the job, the National Guard did not respond timely, or at least they did not seem to. Again, I have no real idea when they were called in. I know a group from Ohio has been sent down. The National Guard, like a large part of the rest of the military, is stretched a bit thin. There is no short term answer for this. An obvious answer would be to keep our noses out of other country's business. I would not want to see a draft get implimented, especially since I might get sucked in on that, but it may come to that. It would be interesting to see how the National Guard was deployed before Katrina to see if part of the problem may have been just getting the units into the area from other areas.
Lastly it was very distrubing how New Orleans degenerated into Lord of the Flies in only 2 or 3 days. Could be just the media coverage, although usually they love to suck up to stories of man helping man in these situations. I have not heard of a lot of these stories.
It really looks like we are one step short of total anarchy in this country, and we are holding ourselves out as an example to the rest of the world. In the past the Republicans liked to say that we all need to take responsibility for things. Even now the current adminstration wants to move us to a more owner based society. However no one in the adminstration wants to, like in basketball, put up their hand and say "my foul." No one person is responsible for this, but there should be some accountability in this. I only hope that people remember this at the next election.