it's a disaster, not simply an inconvenience 9.11.2005

The federal response to Katrina was not as portrayed
Jason van Steenwyk is a Florida Army National Guardsman who has been mobilized six times for hurricane relief. He notes that:

"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.

I write this column a week and a day after the main levee protecting New Orleans breached. In the course of that week:

o More than 32,000 people have been rescued, many plucked from rooftops by Coast Guard helicopters.

o The Army Corps of Engineers has all but repaired the breaches and begun pumping water out of New Orleans.

o Shelter, food and medical care have been provided to more than 180,000 refugees.

Journalists complain that it took a whole week to do this. A former Air Force logistics officer had some words of advice for us in the Fourth Estate on his blog, Moltenthought:

"We do not yet have teleporter or replicator technology like you saw on 'Star Trek' in college between hookah hits and waiting to pick up your worthless communications degree while the grown-ups actually engaged in the recovery effort were studying engineering.

"The United States military can wipe out the Taliban and the Iraqi Republican Guard far more swiftly than they can bring 3 million Swanson dinners to an underwater city through an area the size of Great Britain which has no power, no working ports or airports, and a devastated and impassable road network.

"You cannot speed recovery and relief efforts up by prepositioning assets (in the affected areas) since the assets are endangered by the very storm which destroyed the region.

"No amount of yelling, crying and mustering of moral indignation will change any of the facts above."
A week and a day, a massive recovery effort, several cities literally obliterated--and the prevailing meme we've had all week was "New Orleans is a disaster; Bush and the Federal Government fucked up."

Well, news flash: the disaster area is not just New Orleans--it's an area roughly the size of Great Britain. Hugh swaths of Mississippi were literally erased from the face of the Earth. And yet all we hear about is New Orleans.

My reaction has been the same as above: the first responders in Louisiana completely fucked up, but the Federal Government did it's work like a charm. And if I may be so bold, joint coordination under Homeland Security, rather than being the bureaucratic bungle everyone suggests it was, actually may have helped speed response times up by eliminating some of the red tape that would otherwise exist if we were attempting to coordinate several different organizations. Joint coordination under one umbrella organization may have been cumbersome given that it's a newly created massive bureaucracy--but the response times for the third responders (the Federal Government, who follow local police and fire (first responders) and the Louisiana National Guard (second responders) has been fantastic.

Hell, after the Northridge Earthquake in California it took FEMA a week to get it's shit together and start handing out checks. So FEMA's response to Katrina has been amazingly fast compared to my own recollections to it's ability to handle disasters as of 15 years ago.

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