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Katrina: Lessons Learned

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#1 Spectacles

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:40 AM

I know the crisis is ongoing, but it might be a good time to consider "lessons learned" and post our findings about what has gone right and what has gone wrong and what should have been done instead. The ones who will do the official "lessons learned" are going to be too busy to do it for months, but from our vantage, we can begin now.

There's a lot of this going on in most Katrina threads, but I thought it might be a good point to collect those thoughts in one thread.

How did we plan for this? What worked? What didn't? What should have happened?

How did we respond to the catastrophe? What worked? What didn't? What should have happened?


And let's try to leave partisanship out of it. That doesn't mean not assigning blame to the federal, state, or local agencies when blame is required, but avoiding gratuitous slams of Bush, Nagin, etc.

Edited by Spectacles, 05 September 2005 - 08:39 AM.

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#2 Godeskian

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:41 AM

I think the levees were a success. Had they been properly maintained and upgraded (and thus hadn't broken when they did) then NO would have been damaged but not devastated.

IMO, it was the levees breaking that turned it from a disaster into a tragedy.

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#3 G1223

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:55 AM

I think a lesson learned here is that we do need to allow looters to be shot for their crimes. Now I think that looters are those stealing property and that food is not realistically property under most circumstances.

I think that sending in food is finer but it must tied to evacuating the people out of the disaster area. Those not willing to leave should be withdrawn if possible and left to die otherwise. I do not wat a fireman or aid worker killed because a person was not willing to leave.

NO has always had problems with flooding.  It was a disaster waiting to happen as some have said folks lived there at their own risks and that should be understood as being their mistake.

The states should get their act toghere and assume the feds are not going to show up immedatly. I know here in Indiana we do not wait for FEMA to how up before fixing damage done by tornados. Usually it is a news story for a issue that FEMA is going to be showing up to help out but that is about it.
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#4 ShotenStar

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:59 AM

While I'm sure the after action reports, congressional investigations, popular press books, etc., will dig into this for years to come, one thought that has been rumbling around in my brain is that we need to teach disaster planning / basic survival skills in schools, just like we teach traffic safety and driver's education.

In watching the interviews with survivors and the accounts of the destruction, I noticed repeatedly that people seemed totally unprepared for the reality they were in.  While some have stated that this is a racial / wealth divide issue, I wonder if it is more fundatmental than even that: is it a lack of basic knowledge about what to do when confronted with a given situation?   Example: I grew up in a state that had tornados every summer.  How to evaluate the tornado producing potential of a storm and what to do if you saw a tornado or heard a tornado warning were bits of information that were drilled into us, starting in grade school -- we even had tornado drills in school.  

To make this Katrina specific: the news reporting has made quite a fuss about conditions at the Superdome -- failed plumbing, garbage piled up, etc.  Yet 'Camp Sanitation 101' is not a difficult concept; even with 10,000 people, if everyone had been taught some of the basics of how to deal with waste, there would have been a more wide-spread concensus/agreement on what to do (slop buckets, designated areas, etc.)  A few people in leadership positions will always have a hard time explaining and setting-up something like this without a basic background knowledge among all the people who have to execute it.  When tempers are frayed and stressed, it gets even harder.  But with the basic knowledge distributed within the entire population, the more likely you are to see leaders rise up in the ranks, who can make things happen on a small scale.  This self-organizing on the small scale tends to build up to organization on the larger.

So, rather than this be-all / end-all focus on test scores, maybe we should be funding courses at all grade levels that teach basic survival techniques.  Because there will be another storm, or terrorist attack, or industrial accident, or .....

*star*
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#5 Nonny

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 08:11 AM

I've confirmed what I learned long ago, that if there is a catastrophe, I better hope I die quickly, because survival will not be an option for me.  Not just because of my limited mobility, but because of my mental disability.  Shelter?  Hell, no!  Been there, done that, surprised I survived that time.  I was in a lot better shape physically back then and much more able to deal with the abuse of the people in charge who seem to feel entitled to take out their own frustrations on those already crippled with anxiety.  I would rather die than find myself at the mercy of another b!itch whose idea of help is to scream in my face, I can't help you if you won't stop crying.  Hell, I cry all the time, for no apparent reason, it's one of my major symptoms, but try explaining that to somebody who wouldn't listen even if she had the time.  No, if I can't stay home with my own emergency provisions or stay in my car with my camping equipment and changes of clothes or get to a motel, no evacuation for me.  

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#6 Spectacles

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 08:53 AM

Quote

ShotenStar: we need to teach disaster planning / basic survival skills in schools, just like we teach traffic safety and driver's education.

Excellent suggestion.

I find myself worrying about the possibility that yet another major hurricane will hit us before November, or that Al Qaeda will decide (quite rightly) that now would be a good time to launch a major attack. This disaster has shown that either our resources are thinner than we thought or we are unable to mobilize them quickly enough to save people. This means that everyone should be prepared to fend for themselves if need be.

And part of that, beyond basic survival skills, is how to conduct one's self with others in an emergency. One story that hasn't received enough attention is how many men and women at the Convention Center and Superdome acted as peace-keepers and protectors of the weak until help arrived. They fought back others who tried to board buses and helicopters ahead of the wounded and frail. They bodily threw trouble-makers out of the Convention Center. One man said "there are too many cowardly men in this city." So I think that young people need to be given some training in how to respond in an emergency so that they don't become part of the problem but part of whatever solution a community can fashion.
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#7 waterpanther

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:14 AM

Hurricane specific:

We are going to have more and worse hurricanes.  That's not in question.  Ocean waters are warming significantly; the water in the Gulf that fed Katrina had a surface termperature of 90 degrees.  That means storms will draw in more energy, grow larger, persist longer, and more of them are going to make landfall.  The long-term solution is to get a handle on global warming and hammer it down.  

Short-term, there need to be a couple hurricane-disaster staging areas, one in the Gulf, the other perhaps in Virginia or North Carolina. Goods stockpiled should be basic medical supplies and drugs; food; water; cots; tents; evereything needed for disaster relief.  Designate disaster strike force personnel, including military from bases in the Gulf area and up the Atlantic coast.  Have plans in place to fly them into the emergency zone within 24 hours.  For four months of the year, July-October, have the Mercy and the Comfort staffed and ready to go.  Stand them out to sea to follow a storm in as the Bataan did.  

On a larger scale:  Develop clear evacuation/emergency response plans at all levels.  Continue development of the CERTS (Community Emergency Response Training) programs, which is something HS has actually done right.  Separate FEMA from Homeland Security and restore Cabinet status.  Put someone in charge who knows what s/he's doing.
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#8 Natolii

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:53 AM

You are going to need to plan along the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Hurricane Carol hit in 1954 and that was a Catagory 5 storm. There are still scars up here from it.

I would also extend that preparedness to more than just hurricanes. This past winter proved the blizzards are still a serious threat. (Especially when two storms collides overhead and dumps 2 feet of snow in your lap like it did in my neck of the woods.)
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#9 Cyncie

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 11:56 AM

I think we also need to look into restricting the over development of the most disaster prone areas. That doesn't mean abandoning those areas, but it does mean establishing limits. More people and buildings = more devastation and human tragedy when the big one hits.  Beaches are no longer buffer areas for mother nature because we've decided to build on every square inch of property right up to the water's edge. In New Orleans, we've allowed the area that was most at risk to fill up with people who were the most vulnerable... an avoidable tragedy waiting to happen.

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Edited by Cyncie, 05 September 2005 - 11:58 AM.

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#10 offworlder

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 03:31 PM

I think one thing that sort of worked but could have been so much better:
when I saw the whole 'get the hell out of this city NOW' warning, it just to me smacked of desperation rather than a council plan stamped and sealed. And no word otherwise except 'if not, then head to the dome', of course with no welcoming officers with EMTs and medic gear, water!, bagels or pretzels or jumblaia??, just nuttin' and nobody ..... ack

Take a look at thehawaiichannel com /slash / and their weather page, and see that Hawaii has been prepared for years for the big typhoon which could maybe wreak some havoc on their heads, surges, wipeouts, destructive winds, heck they've always known and have firm plans .... but I can't really comment on the NewO one because I never saw their plan, but I don't think it all played out otherwise I'd be able to tell what their plan included!
ack

More people, not some official searching a dusty shelf, but the resident people of the city and their leaders, and those of that ilk on the Miss. coast too, should have been very aware, like in Hawaii, of the Plan, and what to do and where to go and where to turn for more detail and more help. The NewO people had no clue 'cept what they were told That Weekend! Where was the prior plan and notices?
And of course: wherever the folks do go: they simply MUST be met by official helpers who drove or flew in by airlift, for supply and info! so there is no 'we were dumped with nothing, and we saw no one, no official, no help, just nothing'
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#11 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 05:05 PM

Banapis and Jon are going to shoot me.

I don’t think the Mercy and Comfort even if fully staffed and crewed would be suitable ships to respond to a disaster that quickly.  They have to slow of a steaming speed.  What you really need here is a speed demon that can make up any time lost getting to sea by steaming at extremely high speed.  I’d want a ship that could maintain over 35 knots easy with a capability to push over 40 knots.  The only ship I can think of that fits the bill is the former liner United States.

With aluminum hull, sleek hull design, and massive engines she has an edge on even the fastest large warships with a top speed of 43+ knots.  If you cut away the entire superstructure astern of the funnels then you should be able to fit a helicopter deck and facilities onboard that are larger than what the Mercy class has.  I would say you could fit 2,000 bed ward, one or two large compartments for refugees, Now if they actually converted the Unites States to this use you would still only have coverage.  Ideally I would sat convert the Big and then start building a class of vessels similar to her purpose built with the same horsepower and hull specs.

Quote

Waterpanther:  For four months of the year, July-October, have the Mercy and the Comfort staffed and ready to go. Stand them out to sea to follow a storm in as the Bataan did.
I assume by your standard that the only people who deserve quick rescue by sea are those who happen to be struck by a hurricane.  What happens the first time a earthquake hits or terrorist attack outside your hurricane watch? I assume you would be willing to be roasted by the national media and armchair emergency management professionals for being clueless in their opinions on disaster management. ;)

Assuming the ships I mentioned above consider the following:

You would need at least 3 ships to maintain any semblance of 365 around the year coverage on both coasts.   Even then you would be pushing it with some gaps in your coverage on one coast or the other.  So you would need at least four ships and four crews.  That way you could keep two crews on at least two ships at any given time.  One crew would be on 245 hour recall status.  Say you rotate the crews every week between the ships on alert.  You have two crews onboard two ships with 24 hour surge status to anywhere in the nation.  One crew on 24 hour recall status with the ship set to surge in 5 days and the fourth crew in down status.  

This would be hideously expensive.  Without the cost of building the ships they would still be awful expensive.  To maintain the crew level, maintain the ships and maintaining them at surge status with crews you are probably looking at a cool $1.2 billion a year or say $35 million a ship in operation costs.  This is based on some quick figuring from FY1996 for similar sized naval vessels to the cost are likely much higher now.  

So say a cool $1.2 to $1.5 billion a year.
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#12 Anarch

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 05:12 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Sep 5 2005, 10:05 PM, said:

So say a cool $1.2 to $1.5 billion a year.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


So about the cost of two days in Iraq?

Sounds like a bargain.

#13 Cardie

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 05:23 PM

There's a small lesson I learned 25 years ago when we had an ice storm.  Because I live inland in a hurricane-prone state, and one where mere thunderstorms can cut power for hours, I always keep lots of emergency supplies on hand, especially canned foods.  

So we have the storm, power goes out (for five days), roads are too slick to drive, I reach for one of those cans in order to prepare a meal--and I realize the only can opener I have is electric.

We are so dependent on technology that I don't think FEMA could even grasp a situation in which nothing worked.  Cable news organizations were better at improvising communication systems in order to stay on air, but the first plan we have to have is one that can work when your phones and computers are down and major arteries impassable.

Secondly, every city should have a fleet of buses, vans, trucks, whatever available to ferry those without transportation to a pre-arranged "safe haven."  People should have been called to the SuperDome to start filling up buses, not to weather the storm there.

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#14 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:09 PM

Anarch, on Sep 5 2005, 05:12 PM, said:

CJ AEGIS, on Sep 5 2005, 10:05 PM, said:

So say a cool $1.2 to $1.5 billion a year.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


So about the cost of two days in Iraq?

Sounds like a bargain.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That would actually be the cost of eight days in Iraq if you want accuracy in the sarcasm. ;)  

Of course my numbers are probably failing to account for several things so they are probably the extreme low ball for a perfect world.  I don’t see how the project not counting research, development, and building could cost more than $3 billion a year.  I couldn’t even guess at the cost of the building of the ships…  

Myself I think the cost and time to build them would be worth it.  Now try to sell the voters on that price tag for a "ship" that will sit there going "nothing" most of time.
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#15 Anarch

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:16 PM

Quote

That would actually be the cost of eight days in Iraq if you want accuracy in the sarcasm

Yep, my bad.  I mistakenly used the total expenditure on Iraq (about $200 billion) instead of the (average) annual expenditure on Iraq (about $50 billion).   That said, it's actually somewhere in the middle as the $200 billion figure doesn't include 1) future expenditures we've already incurred (e.g. combat-related medical expenses) or 2) interest on the debt that we've accrued due to the supplemental appropriations, nor does it include the extent of 3) replacement costs (i.e. wear and tear) on materiel already incurred.  So let's call it 5 days and we're even ;)

#16 Delvo

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:17 PM

Lots of what people are talking about here pertains only to the particular situation we've got right now in and near New Orleans. But many disasters aren't on the coasts, and practically no others have involved relatively shallow water over relatively flat land, which happens to be pretty much the worst possible scenario for local transportation.

The only big problems I see here which are generic, and can thus be used as a general disaster lesson rather than being only applicable to hurricanes and dike breaches at or near New Orleans, are FEMA refusing offered help and people standing down when FEMA told them to. I don't get how either happened or what the people invovled were thinking in either case (other than something suspiciously like the Nüremburg defense in the latter case). The lesson for the future there is simple: whatever compelled FEMA to refuse help that was available immediately on the spot needs to be gotten out of the way, and people on-site who can see for themselves what's going on need to not let bad policy hinder them.

#17 waterpanther

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:28 PM

Quote

QUOTE
Waterpanther:  For four months of the year, July-October, have the Mercy and the Comfort staffed and ready to go. Stand them out to sea to follow a storm in as the Bataan did.

I assume by your standard that the only people who deserve quick rescue by sea are those who happen to be struck by a hurricane. What happens the first time a earthquake hits or terrorist attack outside your hurricane watch? I assume you would be willing to be roasted by the national media and armchair emergency management professionals for being clueless in their opinions on disaster management.

CJ-- Please note that the first couple words in my post are "hurricane-specific."  Other plans need to drawn up for other situations, including, as necessary, diversion of one of the hospital/rescue ships.  I'm not, after all, the person arguing that keeping them up and ready 365 is undersirable for various reasons.  That would be fine by me and a far worthier expenditure of national treasure than some of the uses it's currently being put to.   ;)
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#18 Nonny

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 06:32 PM

Cardie, on Sep 5 2005, 02:23 PM, said:

So we have the storm, power goes out (for five days), roads are too slick to drive, I reach for one of those cans in order to prepare a meal--and I realize the only can opener I have is electric.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That one hit me a couple years ago, so I have a manual, should learn how to use it.  :blush:  Should also learn how to light the stove with the BBQ lighter.  

I own a multitude of lanterns and flashlights, and batteries for all their needs.  :)  One lantern, a nifty flashlight/lantern combo, I keep in my Rollator basket in case I'm stuck inside away from home when the power goes out.  

Nonny
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#19 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:11 PM

Cardie, on Sep 5 2005, 05:23 PM, said:

So we have the storm, power goes out (for five days), roads are too slick to drive, I reach for one of those cans in order to prepare a meal--and I realize the only can opener I have is electric.
A bayonet works great in those cases. ;)
"History has proven too often and too recently that the nation which relaxes its defenses invites attack."
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#20 Nonny

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 07:26 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Sep 5 2005, 04:11 PM, said:

Cardie, on Sep 5 2005, 05:23 PM, said:

So we have the storm, power goes out (for five days), roads are too slick to drive, I reach for one of those cans in order to prepare a meal--and I realize the only can opener I have is electric.
A bayonet works great in those cases. ;)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Quite the household item, huh, CJ?  :lol:  

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