Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Time to check the plans

Captain Ed and Hugh Hewitt are right-- let's hold off on the political debate for a few days. There is more important work to be done and in any case, we do not have enough facts yet. There is no point in adding yards of commentary to a handful of rumors.

The military has a saying: "amateurs talk about strategy; professionals talk about logistics." I think that second part applies to disaster relief. CNN sits in a hotel in the city and wonders why the trucks have not arrived with water. Behind that question lies a host of others. Cable news is oblivious to the importance of those other questions and this ignorance confirms their amateur status.

Irish Pennants is very good on this point.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is entailed in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, no gasoline is available, and roads and airports were covered with water or debris. Yet this was done within four days of Katrina dissipating. The most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history is being libeled as a national disgrace.

Katrina has revealed weaknesses in our emergency response. In the coming weeks we can learn how to do better. But the key to that learning is asking the right questions and understanding what the real problems were.

All disaster recovery begins at the local level. The next disaster will happen some place other than New Orleans. Now is a great time for local media and bloggers to question our local agencies to make sure that the obvious mistakes of New Orleans are avoided. In particular, what happens on day 2 and 3? How solid are the steps to ensure that those people who evacuate will have food, water, and medical attention? Can those steps withstand an unexpected jolt?

The Harrisburg area has a well-publicized, well-defined evacuation plan because of Three Mile Island. I am confident that state and local government can get people out of harms way if that should be necessary. The potential problem, however, is that those people will be moved into rural areas. I'd like to know how the TMI plan addresses the need for food and water. I plan to ask many questions this week.

The Boy Scouts understand life's realities better than most journalists do. "Be prepared". (I think the Texas translation is even better.) A couple of small inexpensive items can do wonders in an emergency.

A tough flashlight and batteries. I'm partial to this one because the LEDs give outstanding battery life. (Up to 160 hours.)

Hand sanitizers, peroxide, and chlorine bleach.

A space blanket and disposable hand warmers can keep you comfortable if you have to spend the night in your vehicle or outdoors.

A multi-tool or Swiss Army knife is always a good thing to have at hand.

A water purifier. These are for campers, but they can save your life. They kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses. A nice thing to have if your water supply is compromised.

I keep my kit in a small bag in my truck. I've never had to use all of it at once, but I have used almost everything in it at one time or another. It has never been a life-threatening situation, but I was glad to have them anyway.

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