Wednesday, September 7, 2005

disaster management

cecily pointed to an excellent comment on this is not over. go read it. now. i'll wait.

now that you understand a little bit about bush as a human, let's take a look at him as an administrator.

but first, the most important question: is bush responsible for this mess?


and not just "of course, he's the fucking president." not just "of course, he's supposed to be the fucking leader here." not even "we put him in charge for this kind of shit."

he is responsible because he either chose, or delegated the choosing, of the individuals responsible for planning. he is responsible because he either set, or delegated who set, the priorities that led to this disaster. he is responsible because, as harry truman observed, the buck stops with him.

contrast bill clinton after waco, for example: clinton took direct responsibility for what happened, in public, on national television. he said, "i am responsible." he said he was given the opportunity to direct the waco fiasco, and he delegated that authority to the attorney general, who acted on that authority. whether or not you think she did the right thing or not, and whether you think clinton was a good president or not, there is no doubt that he personally took the responsibility for what happened in waco.

shit that should have been done but wasn't:

1) food. the united states military buys ready-to-eat meals that can be stored for years at a time. they are balanced nutrition that can be taken into combat to feed troops.

there is no reason why we can not create a series of warehouses staged around the country that hold five million meals ready to load and move. (five million meals, twice a day, will feed 50,000 people for almost two months. it will feed 100,000 people for almost a month.) as the meals come within a year of expiration, they can be rotated out of the warehouses and into active use in the military. when a disaster happens, we can load them up and move them out because they are already stockpiled and ready to ship.

2) food delivery. moving food to disaster areas isn't all that difficult if you think it through properly. we have been doing airborne food drops since world war i. this isn't rocket science anymore.

3) evacuation. tens of thousands of people were trapped in new orleans because they didn't have the money to leave. what many people don't realize is that our military has a tremendous capacity to move people and material around. there are something on the order of 20 c-5a galaxy cargo planes stationed (sitting on the ground, ready to fly on command) at air force bases in san antonio. each one of these planes, when fully loaded, can hold 1,500 people. each of them is also capable of in-flight refuling.

let's think about what this means in terms of new orleans: a single flight of all 20 of these planes could have moved 30,000 people out of new orleans. because they can refuel in-flight, all that is needed in terms of infrastructure to use them in disaster areas is enough flat land to land, turn around, and take off again. they come with built-in ramps that lower to the ground so you can drive tanks onto them; people can also walk or be wheeled up these ramps.

two flights of these planes could have well more than emptied the superdome. instead of sending people to the superdome as a haven, they should have been sent to the airport, where they could have been loaded onto planes and sent to san antonio, only a couple hour flight. once in san antonio they could be sorted and put on flights called from the commercial reserve. (remember that the government helps pay for commercial airliners in the pool; in exchange the government gets to commandeer them for national emergencies and military deployments.)

there is no reason those people should have been left in new orleans.

even if you couldn't get them all out before the storm, flights could have resumed immediately afterwards, reducing the time people stayed in the city.

instead, they traveled by bus -- a much more expensive means of travel on a per-person basis in terms of both time and money. and of course you can't refuel a bus in the air over the city.

4) pets. while it's true that saving pets is less important than saving people, it's also true that being unable to take a pet will drive some people to stay behind rather than evacuate. this means that to get the maximum number of people out of a dangerous situation, we must also consider the reasons they stay behind, such as their four-legged family members, and we must find a way to accomodate pets, even if it means turning them over temporarily to the aspca for emergency housing and care while the humans are moved elsewhere.

5) record-keeping. it is not hard to keep a hand-written record of who went where, even if it's on legal pads. "flight 238 destination san antonio" and a list of names. then in san antonio "flight 238 origin new orleans" and a list of names, along with where they were headed next. "american red cross. kellis afb. dallas texas." then in dallas, simple shit like "origin san antonio. destination fort worth. destination reunion arena. destination adam's mark hotel rescue" all of this would need to be catalogued later, but it isn't necessary to have electricity and computers to keep accurate records; we did it for centuries, and we can do it again.

if you wanted to be even crazier about keeping records you could ... oh my god ... assign people numbers. with hospital bracelets, say. that are kept with the food for the purpose. wow. so if they bring a pet with them, you crate the dog, put a hospital tag on the crate, put a hospital tag on the human, and record on your legal pad "pet 233223 owner 499923" so that later, human 499923 can be reuinted with pet 233223 when the immediate evacuation emergency has lessened.

and do not stamp these bracelets with numbers at the evacuation site. that takes time and resources that can be better spent elsewhere. instead, manufacture the bracelets with the numbers already on them. choose a sufficient number of digits -- say, nine -- so that you could have several simultaneous disasters and not repeat numbers. there are, remember, 260 million people in the united states. with nine digits you can assign numbers to every one of them three times and still have numbers left over.

these are just the solution to really obvious problems. that i thought of. sitting on my ass at work.

i guess i'm more qualified to do disaster management than "brownie," cuz "brownie" didn't think of this shit.

1 comment:

  1. May I respectfully point out that Bush is not our first president? The presidents who served before him didn't stock pile meals for just such an emergency either. For that matter, I never heard a big outcrying during anyone's administration about the need to fix the levee. No one thought this would happen. Not Clinton, not Bush... not even Miss Cleo! :)
    I agree Bush was slow in his response and waited too long to step up and take some responsibility, because yes, as president he has to shoulder some responsibility. But I'm a bit tired of hearing how he murdered those people. And you have to admit, the fact that he has now admitted responsibility is taking a bit of the wind outta your sails, no?