Planning for Disasters
Finally, the warnings that New Orleans was under a death sentence have been heard. There was the warning by FEMA in 2001, the extensive series in the Times-Picayune in 2002, Chris Mooney's piece a few months ago, US News' article in July, and NPR's couple of segments in 2002 which were quite compelling and predictive. Yet despite the warnings the preparation for the disaster was definitely bollixed up.
NPR's show in 2002 said that scientists estimated there was a 1 in 6 chance that a massive hurricane would hit New Orleans in the next 50 years. And they already knew that saving New Orleans could be next to impossible. Nevertheless, Bush and the Republican Congress could have done more and they are responsible for the choices they made for budgets and projects they funded and defunded. Certainly, the levees that failed this year did not have to fail this time. They could have protected New Orleans if the money had been found to reinforce them. But also clearly the danger to New Orleans would still have been real and disaster still have struck when the next huge hurricane hit the city just right, because the mitigation would take years (years we probably don't have) and the cost would have been enormous.
Knowing that the worst-case scenario for New Orleans was so deadly, the question we should be asking is, what should have been included in a disaster preparation plan? What should be the bottom-line for a disaster of this magnitude? What plans were in place for evacuating the hospitals? What plans were in place for helping people who could not evacuate themselves get out? Yes, there had been an emergency evacution order, but it is clear that no plans were in place to help those without cars and financial means to leave the area. It is this planning that I don't see happening in the news reports we are reading. Why did it take days to finally read that the government was getting clean water and food to the people trapped in the affected areas? It so reminds me of the preparation for the aftermath of the war: a day late and a dollar short.
Photo thanks to BagnewsNotes
And now that the people in the Superdome are being evacuated to a new shelter in the Astrodome, I'd like to ask who's idea is it that stadium bleachers make up a shelter? Especially if that emergency lasts months? Houston is opening their schools to the kids, but will there be showers, a place to study and to play? These aspects to life should be part of the planning for when a serious disaster strikes. With global warming looming, we have to demand that our government prepare for more cities becoming uninhabitable and for more refugees within our own land. Perhaps we'll also start to get serious about doing something that addresses the problem of global warming too, but then again that might be too much to hope for. Nevertheless, the planning has to start now.