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Emergency Preparedness

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The Storm is Here

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Ever since the end of last year’s hurricane season, I’ve been predicting that North Carolina would be hit this year by a named storm. I would get strange looks, as the person listening would wonder if I was privvy to some top-secret scientific data, or if I was pulling a prediction out of my butt. The truth lies somewhere in-between.
First, I’m a North Carolinian. Hurricanes are a way of life for us. The North Atlantic weather swirl simply places us in the path, seemingly more often than not. I’ve also had a little weather training from the National Weather Service (something the global warmiacs might think about getting to reduce their ignorance). When you see a map, with the tracks of all of the major storms for 20 years laid on a map, you have trouble seeing North Carolina through all the stormtracks drawn over it. Last year’s North Carolina drought was caused by an unseasonable storm-free year, except for one storm that skirted the coast, leaving the rest of the state unscathed.
Count me as a bit strange, but I’ve come to enjoy the storms. I’ve ridden out a few major storms, including Fran. The eye of Fran woke me from a comfortable sleep, as all of the storm’s noise died down for a few minutes, producing a complete calm. When the eyewall passed back across, and we were in the thick of the storm again, I quickly fell back asleep.
Well, it doesn’t seem to be much, but now we have Ernesto. Riding this one out is going to take on new meaning, as I walk out to my car in a few minutes and drive through the storm to work, a commute that normally takes just under an hour. I love my commute, but I don’t know what to expect on this morning.
Stay prepared.

Michael Lewis in New Orleans – Great Read

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In the New York Times Magazine, Michael Lewis tells of going into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit. In the story he tells many interesting anecdotes. The truth, against the stories told in the media and in rumor (which weren’t much different), makes for interesting reading. It’s not a short read, but I must say this is an important one.

Hate Politics Doesn’t Tell Truth About Katrina Relief


I’m getting quite tired of listening to the constant accusations from the left over Hurricane Katrina. In an ongoing attempt to hurt President Bush and the Republican Party politically, Katrina is the latest in a long string of situations for which George Bush should be blamed. I’ve seen Bush blamed for the hurricane itself, which is such a stupid idea that I would normally be amazed that anyone would make the connection. In the aftermath, the accusations have been just as baseless, if not as stupid.
One point of accusation is the slow response of the federal government. I can tell you from personal knowledge that the federal government responded in exactly the timeframe that can be expected in a disaster. I volunteer as an emergency communications specialist through ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Communications). Should a disaster hit my local area, I will deploy with other amateur radio operators to fill the gaps in communication, from police and fire needs to operating stations in our emergency shelters. Because of our specific task, we are involved in the planning for the local handling of natural disasters.
The single most important point we must remember in a disaster is that WE are the first response. Should a major disaster hit the area, our first job is to ensure the security and safety of ourselves and our families. Our second job is to look to our immediate community for its needs. If we have a neighbor in need of emergency medicine, we must do what we can. Once that is done, we deploy as needed to serve the needs of the city and county in rescue and recovery. The reason for this is that we cannot expect outside help to arrive immediately.
I can’t say how many times I’ve heard from representatives of our local Emergency Operations Center that the earliest we can expect federal help in a major disaster is 3-4 days. We can expect state agencies to begin responding AFTER 24 hours, because first responder agencies such as police, fire, and rescue can simply drive to the area on demand. More state help will begin to arrive later, as those responsible for the response mobilize and deploy. Federal help takes longer. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s the nature of the job. The right people for the particular situation must be mobilized. Equipment and supplies needed for the task are gathered. Travel time must be factored in. With all this considered, a three day response is realistically the best you can ask for.
Because of the slow response time of state and federal authorities, local emergency management and government officials KNOW that the earliest jobs of rescue and recovery are theirs and theirs alone. They should have emergency management plans to deal with the worst realistic disasters. These plans must be tested through drills and constant re-evaluation.
Note that I said “realistic disasters.” Hurricane Katrina was a storm on a scale only measured twice before, in the age of modern weather science. New Orleans officials had plans in place to deal with the results of a much weaker storm. They SHOULD have designed their plans for a storm of this magnitude, but that’s easier said than done.
With all this in mind, I can see where errors did occur. New Orleans did not follow its own emergency preparedness plan in preparing for this storm. With plans in place to evacuate the city, entire steps were ignored completely. In a city run by Democrats, the poorest of the city were left to fend for themselves while those with means were allowed to go to safety. The emergency plan included a 72 hour timeline for full evacuation, but mandatory evacuation wasn’t put into place until well within the 48 hour landfall estimate. City and school buses were in the plans as a means to evacuate the poorest and most needy citizens, but the Democrats in power showed complete incompetence in leaving those people in danger.
State officials should have responded better and faster. They didn’t. Although they undoubtedly have detailed emergency plans, and could have begun deployment within 24 hours, they didn’t. The Democrat Governor of the state seemed quicker to provide blame than help. This, of course, is only my perception, but state response was inadequate in the earliest days.
The Federal Government responded right on time. 3 days after the event, the Coast Guard was well into its efforts. The US Army was arriving and providing assistance in many ways. FEMA officials and workers were arriving. In addition, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other private organizations were setup and providing help to the needy.
Disaster preparedness and recovery is a big, complex business. There are many thousands of people in this country working every day to make sure that YOU stay as safe as possible should the worst occur. These people deserve respect, and assistance when you can provide it.
When natural disaster occurs, though, one thing you can count on from the Democrats is attempt after attempt to use the deaths and needs of others for political benefit. It’s sad. It’s sickening. To those on the left who have repudiated such attempts to use this disaster for political gain, I can only say thanks.

How NOT to React to Impending Emergency

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One common thread among (nearly) all local and state governments, as well as the federal, is disaster preparedness. Virtually every city, county, parish, metro area, and state has detailed emergency preparedness plans that involve many facets. Regular drills take place to determine how effectively the authorities can react to different situations. I’ll be taking part in a small drill this afternoon, in fact, so I’m somewhat familiar.
That said, here’s a quote from The Southeast Louisiana Evac Plan Supplement, most recently revised in 2000.

5. The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.

With that in mind, look at this photo of unused school buses, leaking fluids into the flood waters.
I’m sure some drills were taking place. One drill that could have happened on paper, at least, was a full city-wide evacuation of New Orleans. Had such a drill taken place, even just on paper, this weak point would surely have been identified and fixed.
This is why the emergency preparedness drills should be undertaken regularly. The government officials should be doing it. Companies should be doing it. Churches should be doing it. You should be doing it. When was the last time you had a fire drill at your home?
Don’t take things for granted. Do a drill. Analyze the drill. Fix the drill. Hope you never need the drill.

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