Monday, September 05, 2005
It's Not My Fault; I Just Do What I'm Told
Here are some examples of apparent mishandling of responsibility which seem to be all too representative of how the Katrina disaster has being handled by more than a few government officials at various levels of authority. These individuals are all getting paid good money to perform vital duties, and now, in the moment of truth, it would appear that the things they're really good at are blowing smoke and pointing fingers.
That being said, it's questionable whether anything less catastrophic would have forced the powers-that-be to do anything concrete to determine what has gone wrong and actually (maybe) fix it.
And even though the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana governor may not be the sharpest tacks in the drawer, at what point does the federal government's mandate (Homeland Security or FEMA) kick in and override the lower levels of authority because it is clearly a national disaster. Surely it's possible to define a mandate that specifies action within hours of mass destruction and widespread casualties becoming apparent, rather than days later. As President Bush himself is reported to have noted, the affected area is bigger than all of England!
It seems to me that any national government has the obligation to step in when circumstances demonstrate that, for whatever reason, lives are in imminent danger and lower levels of government are unable (again for whatever reason) to prevent it. Seems to me that in the 'old days', this would have been called common sense.
Excerpt from a news report, Sunday Sept. 4th:
On television, (Homeland Security Secretary) Chertoff was omnipresent, dispatched by the administration to appear on all five Sunday news shows after FEMA Director Michael Brown's damage-control efforts met with little success last week.
Chertoff echoed the White House line — saying the time to place blame will come later, but he also said federal officials had trouble getting information from local officials on what was going on. For instance, he said, they hadn't been told by Thursday of the violence and horrible conditions at the New Orleans convention center.
Today's editorial (Sept. 4th) in the Times-Picayune calls this claim "...a baldfaced lie...."
I find this to be a particularly amazing claim considering the graphic 24 hour news reports which have been watched around the world from the moment the hurricane struck three days previously. Perhaps nobody in Washington watches CNN, FoxNews or BBC World News, to say nothing of the other major networks.
..... Perhaps Mayor Nagin ... (could) ... have used the over two-hundred school buses at a depot in New Orleans (....to evacuate thousands of the less mobile people during the mandatory evacuation preceding the hurricane).
Days later, Nagin complains to CNN, "Right now we are out of resources at the convention center and don't anticipate enough buses. We need buses." ......
A second example from a news report on Sunday Set. 4, 2005:
CNN reports that:
... nine stockpiles of fire-and-rescue equipment strategically placed around the country to be used in the event of a catastrophe still have not been pressed into service in New Orleans, five days after Hurricane Katrina.
Responding to a CNN inquiry, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Marc Short said Friday the gear has not been moved because none of the governors in the hurricane-ravaged area has requested it.
Steve Beaumont, a retired contract manager for Homeland Security's Prepositioned Equipment Program, said the gear would be helpful for fire departments wiped out by the hurricane. Each pod has 200 radios, including sophisticated equipment to make radios inter-operable, tying different communications systems together.
Read complete story at CNN: Firefighting gear stockpile unused
From AP Sept 5,2005:
Beth Sharer, CEO of Washington County Memorial Hospital in Salem, Ind., said she was frustrated by a federal plan to create 40 new emergency medical centers with 250 beds each.
"It's not any one person's fault, but the system failed," she said.
Hospitals around the country were standing by with empty beds, staff, triage centers and air transportation to fetch patients, she said. But they couldn't launch the rescue flights without requests for help, and those requests never came.
"These victims could have been here a week ago, and now they're spending a lot of time and money making triage centers? In situations like this every minute counts, not every day counts. Why not get them to these open beds?" she said.
Frank Russo of the Chicago Ambulance Alliance said his organization was ready to send help immediately. But the request didn't come until Thursday, three days after the hurricane struck.
In New Jersey, Gov. Richard Codey said he had a task force of 105 police officers and 55 vehicles and a medical task force of 55 physicians and 43 nurses standing by. But so far, no request for assistance has been made.
Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.
Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured.