Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday Afternoon

As usual, I am procrastinating on the final sermon polish for Sunday. It's so easy with the Internet to bobble around, pretending to do more research or check the news or your email instead of doing what you really need to get done.
It's inevitable that Katrina's on my mind. I'm infuriated by the government's inability to just move--state, federal, and local. They have known for a long time that New Orleans (in particular) is susceptible to flooding (not llike they haven't had hurricanes and floods there before, eh?). Why didn't they start evacuating people earlier? Why weren't buses made available for those who didn't have cars or couldn't afford the gas or the hotels needed when you evacuate?
My nomination for most jaw-dropping moment: Mike Brown's comment that FEMA "didn't know" about the thousands of people in the Superdome. It had to be a deliberate falsehood--either that or the man is clueless to imbecility. It was on all the major networks, TV and radio, wire services--how could FEMA possibly have been ignorant of those people and their plight?
I belong to a number of email lists, most of them international in scope, and so many non-Americans on the lists have asked, incredulously, why there was no evacuation plan in place, in a region known for flooding and hurricanes? Why no caches of food and water in public places and shelters? No family plans for reuniting after evacuation?
There's plenty of blame to go around for sure--the federal government for cutting funding for the Army Corps of Engineers projects to restore wetlands, and then not sending in the National Guard quickly enough; local and state government for procrastinating on evacuations and asking for help; and individuals as well, for not getting out when they were told, not having some kind of plan. Many, if not most, of the folks left behind in New Orleans didn't have the funds, plain and simple, to get out. But what about plans to call relatives in states far from the disaster area? The shelters and survivor assistance groups always have provision for survivors to call family members and let them know they're OK; so if you all agree to call Aunt Sally in Chicago, she can keep you informed on each other, even if one of you is Houston, and two in St. Louis, and five in Dallas. Sure, not everyone has relatives like that--but most people do.
There needs to be a system of disaster planning and preparation in place in all states/areas--tailored to the disasters common to their area--earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, etc.
I grew up in Michigan--subject to blizzards and tornadoes. We always kept spare batteries for the radio, extra cans of soup, plenty of water and other drinkables, and so on. My sister and I had been taught to go into the bathroom during a tornado warning (and we knew the difference between watch and warning). We made sure we had a snow shovel, Mom kept the car gassed up, and we had sand or salt in the car for snowstorms. And we were not wealthy--Mom was a single mom, supporting my sister and I. It was simply something you planned for, ahead of time--something you prepared for. It wasn't difficult, or even expensive, really--simple things like batteries and a few extra cans of soup.
So why don't people learn these things? I don't know. Some of the folks in New Orleans were third and fourth generation; they ought to have known. Maybe there should be a mandatory training session for newcomers--"this is the kind of natural disaster/bad weather/geological disurbance we get around here, and this is how you should deal with it."
Bah. Enough for now.

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