June 1 is coming — the start of yet another hurricane season, and Polimom feels stuck in one of those spiral “thingies” they have at the malls, where you set a coin on its side and watch it travel down into a funnel – faster and faster….
Will the Gulf Coast be hit with another Rita or Katrina? There’s no way to predict it, but we absolutely have to assume it will, and whether it’s this year, or the next, or a decade away, Polimom fully expects a repeat of last season’s debacle.
Why? Because evidently, the federal government thinks it can improve its inherently inept emergency response, and Polimom’s very worried that people will depend – again – upon a FEMA-type rescue (from WaPo):
“We propose to abolish FEMA and build a stronger, more capable structure within (the Department of Homeland Security),” the report said. “It will be an independent entity within DHS, but will draw on the resources of the department and will be led and staffed by capable, committed individuals.”
The new agency, which would be called the National Preparedness and Response Authority, or NPRA, would have responsibility both for natural disasters, such as a hurricane, and a possible terror attack.
I will never forget the first weeks following Katrina — the chaos, desperation, and personal indignities are seared forever into my memories. Many of you found Polimom during those very first days, and together we scrambled to pull communities and resources together.
But as intimate as those days were, there are things you didn’t know — issues with which Polimom struggled even as the floodwaters still stood in the city and residents could not return.
For instance, I’m sure you remember that days after the storm, St. Bernard Parish residents were still sitting on top of their houses, cars, or trees, but did you know that rescue efforts there were led by a small group of private citizens in another state altogether? (Link)
Just as difficult for me was the group that contacted Polimom that Friday, Sept. 2, about an enormous shipment of critical supplies that included room-sized generators powerful enough to run entire subdivisions. Does it worry you that they emailed me because it was utterly impossible to figure out what authorities to contact for delivery and responsible use?
These were not small governmental failures, and I was appalled that a blog was the best path forward.
I don’t find it nearly so appalling today, because if I learned nothing from the entire Katrita experience, it was that individuals make the biggest difference in an emergency.
I wrote about this at the Chronicle this morning also, but I wanted to share some of the details with you folks here — so you’d understand what’s behind my thinking.
It doesn’t matter to me these days whether the Senate “re-tools” FEMA, creates a new agency, or radios outer space for intergalactic help. By the time the aliens land or the trucks arrive, it will still have been days since the disaster struck – whatever it was.
We – individuals, groups, towns, and cities – are the key to surviving a disaster. Of course federal relief will come eventually, but never again should we make the mistake of placing the responsibility on them for our immediate survival.