UNDER THE DEVASTATION of Hurrican Katrina lies a daming indictment to major shortfalls in planning for a natural occurrence that has long been gamed during recurring exercises of civil defense. As a participant in several FEMA scenarios, the big question I raise is why elements of the primary reaction corps--the Louisiana National Guard--were dispatched to international duty without any fall-back plan in line to deal with the immediate aftermath of a major emergency. Why did it take days before the Lousiana governor declaration of a state of emergency was actioned in Washington? These are political questions that cut to the quick of governance, and I doubt they will be answered with any truth during the after-action reports on the clean-up of Hurrican Katrina.
I used to plan hurricane evacuations and followed up some of my planning sessions with actual exercises of the primary and secondary response networks. I flew an airplane from an approaching hurricanes and rode aboard a US Navy frigate on a full-scale hurricane evacuation a year later. On the front line, disaster response appears chaotic and nearly uncontrollable. Success boils down to a matter of prioritising actions. The only way around the chaos is to pull on chains of logisitical support and to follow-up with secondary levels of support if the primary networks collapse. You need to have someone in charge of the situation and when I left my South Carolina post, that task was in FEMA's hands. I wonder if we will ever find out what happened to those volumes of disaster response plans. You only have one level of ultimate responsibility and that's federal.
Associated Press image of burning oil depot from Yahoo Editor's Picks.
Doc Searls -- "In War on Error, people will need to take the lead. Governments will need to follow or get out of the way".
Jon Stewart -- "George did it." (QT movie)