Thread: How did this happen?
09-05-2005, 06:24 AM #1
How did this happen?
This is a portion of a post by a respected member of Firehouse forums:
"Unbelievable....airliner after airliner and C-130 after C-130 arriving only minutes apart all day long packed with refugees, many sick/injured and non-ambulatory. These poor folks have nothing, and I mean NOTHING. They show up with only 1 shoe or in bare feet, with tattered rags for clothes. They haven't eaten in days, much less showered. The babies are in dirty diapers. The elderly have no medication. It's just very very sad."
My question is how did things get this bad? I don't have any experience in major emergency management but it doesn't seem like this whole N.O. situation could have gone any worse. At some point I will probalbly be asked by some of the kids I counsel at a Juvenile Detention Center why this had to happen this way and I'm not really sure what to say. I am not trying to find someone to blame, just wanting to know how things got this bad or what was not done that should have been. Is it as simple as the people did not heed the warnings? What about the seemingly late rescue efforts? Lack of police presence? Slow relief efforts? What went SO WRONG?
Any and all opinions welcomed.
Last edited by prymtym; 09-05-2005 at 04:02 PM. Reason: sp"PHILIPPEANS 4:13"
09-05-2005, 07:34 AM #2
Because for decades the leaders found 'more important' things to spend their money on than beefing up the levee system. Now all their 'more important' things are under 10 feet of sewage.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
09-06-2005, 05:39 PM #3
No help??? Thanks anyway.
Thank you nmfire."PHILIPPEANS 4:13"
09-06-2005, 06:54 PM #4
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
A large part of it is due to department heads (local on up ) that look at every thing from the perspective of "whats in it for me " --- more consenred with their paycheck and pension than doing their job to the best of their ability.
Also a growing lack of indapendant thinking (thinking outside the box )
A trend to hire "managers" instead of people who have worked their way up through the ranks and know the job inside out.
09-06-2005, 07:55 PM #5
- Join Date
- Jun 2005
- Syracuse, NY, USA
Not that I have alot of expierance or anything but this is my opinion.
1 Lack of preplaning
2 Not taking the threat seriously enough
3 Lack of actionThis is my opinion and in no way represtents the opinion of my department.
09-06-2005, 10:45 PM #6
Might as well sit down. I'm speaking all of this as someone who takes part locally in planning for and contending with this stuff in my own town for the OEM. Like New Orleans, this has never happened here either so we could easily be in the same position they were, albeit not nearly as large, the concept is the same. I hate to monday morning quarterback things, but there are things in this buisness that are universal knowns and facts. That is all I'm going to touch on and won't be making any huge assumptions. None of this has anything to do with politics, race, ethinicity, color, or anything else.
Absolutely this was a natural disaster of epic proportions, the likes of which I hope never happens again (but it will...). Nothing like this has ever happened before on US soil. We have no real-world practice responding to a disaster of this scale. We can only rely on smaller scale responses and pre-planning for the big ones. One can assume that with a catastrophe of this size, there is going to be some chaos. It's human nature for one thing, and you can't plan for every possible problem. So, with that in mind, I would expect and certainly not fault a certain amount of "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" on the part of our emergency managers. The shell-shock of this had my head spinning and I didn't have any role in it whatsoever from over 1,000 miles away.
However, the disorganization and poor planning and implimentation of actions in the 24 hours leading up to the storm and the 5 days afterwards far exeeded acceptable confusion. Here's a few things off the top of my head:
To start with, this should never have happened to begin with. Everybody with an official position knew those levees would fail in a catagory 4 or 5 hurricane and they've know that since they day they broke ground building them. They've had decades to make upgrades but chose to spend the money on other things that at the time apparently seemed more important. Now where is all that more important stuff?? It's under 9 feet of sewage and surrounded by dead bodies. Anyway, fast-forward to Satuday.
1. People are stuborn and don't like leaving their homes. We know this. We have to plan for it. Simply saying "oh well, I guess they die" is not acceptable and we have to do something about it even if the people are stupid. For example, there was a yard of flooded parked busses that could have been making rounds throughout the city and transporting people to the designated shelters. There was absolutely no reason to have 5,000+ people up on their roofs. This constitutes poor planning leading up to the storm. Thank you Mr. Mayor.
2. Shelters, what a stretch that term is. If you are going to put 20,000 people in a building and call it a shelter, you damn well better have it ready to be one. Everyone knew the city was going under long before the storm arrived. There should have been methods to get them out or get them supplies to sustain life the moment the storm passed. If that means dropping food by helicopter every day until transportation can be arranged, than so be it. But you have to have a plan for it to be called a shelter. In the absense of such, you don't have a shelter, you have death and chaos. So, this constitutes another failure in planning prior to the arrival of the storm. Thank you again Mr. Mayor.
3. Who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to leave every gun shop and walmart loaded with weapons fully stocked? Anyone who knows guns knows you never just arbitrarily leave them lying around unattended. You take them with you or secure them somewhere. We all saw the results of that. Again, poor planning prior to the storm and just plan stupid!
They knew this thing was coming on Satuday. It didn't hit until Monday morning. That is plenty of time to get your *** in gear and impliment what should have been pre-planned long ago.
4. Now fast-forward to Monday. Since all of the above wasn't done, that just compounded everything that had to happen over the next 5 days. Had there not been 5,000+ people on their rooftops requiring the use of every single available air-sea rescue resource, those helicopters could have been bringing food and water in to the shelters and the most ill and injured out of the shelters. They could also have used some of them to try slowing down the gaping hole in the levee. There would have been personel to begin maintaining order and control. But no. Those people on their roofs were in immidiate life-threatening need, like a sinking boat. All hands were on that and the shelters remained pretty neglected.
5. Speaking of neglected shelters. Since no one bothered to plan ahead how to sustain a shelter for 5 days but sent everybody there anyway, it quickly dis-evolved to anarchy and people simply started dying. Not sure what they expected to happen, but they got the worst.
6. Speaking of anarchy, now people have armed themselves with the aformentioned guns and are terrorizing what is left of the city. [u[We all know that looting and lunacy follow any disaster[/u]. The fact that they didn't get the neccessary armed security in there sooner is another failure. This can also be linked back to people that could have been doing security having to conduct rescues instead. Those cops were on their own roof fending off the bad guys like something out of a movie. I don't buy this BS about "the roads were blocked". This is America. We don't need roads. We have blackhawk helicopters with 50 caliber machine guns and hellfire missiles. We have chinooks. We have bulldozers and tanks. We have amphibious vehicles. These things do not take 5 days to get to a major US city. What if city was attacked by a forign enemy? I don't think it would take 5 days to mount a defensive attack. This shouldn't have been any different once it was realized how out of control it was going to get for all of the above reasons. Those people were domestic terrorists and should have been dealt with as such immidiately. Thank you Mr. Mayor and thank you Ms. Governor.
7. Medical response, or a lack thereof. People were dropping like flies at the hospital. We know there are hospitals with patients. We know we can't evacuate it in 24 hours so they have to defend in place until after the storm. There is absolutely NO excuse for it taking 5 days to evactuate the patients and leave them with no food or water just like the shelters. They blame the rebel forces in the streets because they shot at the helicopters and boats bringing supplies. Nice try, see #5 & #6 regarding 50 caliber machine guns and rockets.
8. Playing dumb and other stupid *** non-sense. I can't tell you exactly who were the major bottleneck players in slowing the responses from the state and feds. A lot of people say the governor was holding out on calling for federal assistance because she wanted to handle it in house and show off. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. Regardless, it is obvious that there was a lot of beurocratic bull$hit going on at the state and federal levels and not a lot of 'get it done' when it needed to be done. When questioned, the FEMA director and other talking heads would just keep saying "we've been planning for this and help is on the way." Well I'm sorry but it is quite apparent that the help was not on the way and someone needs to try actually reading the plan, if there is one. When that asshat DHS director actually said "We had no idea the levees would fail, no one thought that would happen", I almost through a glass at my TV in anger. Flat out lies. They knew. They didn't act. Now there are a few thousand dead people.
So you see, the failures on the local level created a situation that simply snowballed out of control long before federal aid could have even rolled in on the best day. It was already a loser from the word go. Typical state and federal beurocratic delays become exponential instead of just a minor inconvenience.
Now, I can't sit here and condem the morons in charge without speaking up for the guys and gals who despite their leaders total failure to plan accordingly, still pulled through 210% and did a hell of a job. The men and women of the national guard in every state that has sent troops has been doing a phenomenal job. Those guys did the best they could with what little they had in the worst possible situation that was dumped on them.
The US Coast Guard and the Air National Guard rescued probably in the neighborhood of 5,000+ people off the roofs of their houses in storm winds, around trees and power lines, and blowing debris night and day non-stop with mid-air refuelnig. This is unprecidented and I don't think they could ever be given enough credit for that effort.
The US Navy, US Army, and US Marines arrived and pulled off a task that probably rivaled the Berlin Airlift. Blackhawks, seahawks, sea stallions, chinooks, and anything else that could land vertically was taking people out of the shelters, and at the same time triaging and treating the medical cases to prioritize them. This, much like the roof-top rescue mission was unprecidented and you couldn't begin to thank these guys.
The local police and firefighters basicly got dumped on. The people that they relied on to adequately plan for this event left them all high and dry on their rooftops being shot at and starved. But they never gave up (well, most of them anyway) and they held their ground the best they could with what little they had. Those guys should all be given medals because what they went through is not in the job description of any municipal public safety official.
And finally, the citizens, doctors, and nurses who took it upon themselves to help other people in the hospitals and shelters, all while being shot at, starved, dehydrated, ignored, and without supplies truly show that there are still some good people around and not everyone is jerk. What more can I say.
Alright, I think that will conculde my essay for this evening.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
09-06-2005, 10:54 PM #7
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Thanks, Bro. As you know, I usually have something to say. This time I don't. You have poured out all of what has been on my mind for some time now, and done it in a sensible, cohesive manner so anyone can understand what you're saying. I stand behind you 100%.Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
IACOJ Budget Analyst
I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
09-06-2005, 10:58 PM #8
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
You are right on all points, and from what we are hearing up north, the state EOC, GOV, AND MAYOR ALL expected help to come, however becuase they never took this whole EMA/EOC/ESDA/ thing seriously, they didnt understand that you have to formally ASK for help in order for it to come...not just wish upon a star
09-07-2005, 12:10 AM #9
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
My opinion as follows:
1. Lack of command and control. The local officials lost it before the storm hit. Case in point is the mass evacuation site (superdome). It was a last minute decision to house the city there but the local officials did not properly prepare the site. Also, no central command post has yet to be seen on any network. No joint information center, no "incident commander", no control. It is every entity for itself.
2. Funding. The drills and pre-planning were started, but due to lack of funding, the hands-on section of the drills were never completed.
3. Attitude. For too many years officials at all levels denied the reality of such an event. For the last few years, the country has been focused on funding and equipment for terrorist, but has forgotten the bread and butter events such as natural disasters which always occur year after year. If we can't handle floods and other natural disasters, how the heck are we going to handle bio-terrorism or nuclear threats?
09-07-2005, 12:34 AM #10
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
- Clermont County, Ohio
nmfire said tons of correct things, but there are a few more things which need to be said:
First, there was no plan for regional mutual aid. As the small town fire chief from somewhere nearby in LA has posted several times, they could have had dozens of boats doing basic rescues/removals from flooded homes just from depts within a 1-200 mile radius, probably within 6 hours. This could have been executed without any formal agreement. I've been a part of this in SW Ohio when 1 county communication center called another after a large tornado and requested help. Within 2 hours, multiple engine co's and EMS units were responding - equiped to work for 12-24 hours. This happened even though there was no formal inter-county mutual aid agreement. A similar action could have been done in NO - and should have been initiated by the NO officials.
The next 24-48 hours could have been staffed by units from further away. With 12 hours notice, many units could have come from farther away in LA and surrounding states, with sufficient camping supplies to be self sufficient for 3-7 days. All that would be needed would be to assign camping areas, staging areas, and a plan for using them - and that could have been as simple as assigning groups of resources to NO supervisors. This should have been at least considered and planned in advance, but even without it, resources could have been had for the asking. Look at what has been made available just on other threads on Firehouse or from other requests. The basic needs are for personnel and regular apparatus (fire & EMS). I'm not knocking any of the technical specialists in USAR - they're incredibly valuable. But in this incident, numbers are needed. Anyone who turned away these resources directly caused death and suffering.
Then, after the 48-72 hours have passed, most of the rescues and recoveries of salvageable victims have been done. Then it's time to move into FEMA type recovery & rebuilding efforts.
So, what to do next time:
1. Develop regional mutual aid agreements. Make sure the incident commander, not the mayor or anyone else, has the authority to call them out.
2. Develop guidelines for responding units for self-sustainibility: food, water, camping, fuel, etc. so that when units show up they're not a burden. (side note: I'm very ashamed of the article on the front page of this site. Staying home is not a virtue, nor is it appropriate to believe that units rushing to the scene wouldn't be prepared to support themselves. There are many intelligent responders among us.)
3. Permit the military to be part of these mutual aid agreements, so local commanders can deploy their resources for 12-48 hours based on local requests, without waiting the days needed for requests and approval to percolate through the federal beaurocracy.
4. Require state and federal "emergency management" personnel to really have the experience that matches their title - i.e. fire/police/EMS/public works experience.
5. Make management of volunteered resources a regular part of incident command and emergency management training. If incident commanders are mentally prepared for this, and are thinking of ways to stage and coordinate the use of these resources, much more can be done during the critical front end of these incidents.Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.
09-07-2005, 08:45 PM #11
Whatr went wrong?
They knew she was coming in land and was going to hit BR first and she shifted. They did say ya need to leave and opened both sides of the interstate 1 way. Sat .. They knew she was going to be worse then the last 1 Andrew and told them hey its not safe to stay. But ppl stayed .. Oh no we won't get hurt. ?? You can not lay blame on any one but ya self if ya stay after ya been warned all wkend along about this storm. Now as far as the help needed after the storm.. I dont know if pointing the finger at any one is going to do any one any good.. Now is the time ppl just need to make themselves a new start and be thank-ful they did get threw this storm and heck its the middle of storm season here so theres more to come.
P. S. Just remember .. You can NOT point your finger at others cause there is always 4 pointing back at you ..Laying blame on others does not help your problems . Just move on
09-08-2005, 02:31 PM #12
Well said Nmfire! Well said...
09-08-2005, 02:58 PM #13
- Join Date
- Nov 2002
- Charlotte, NC
How did this happen?
Read this article by Robert Tracinski. He provides a very different reason as to why this became such a big situation, other than the fact that it was a hurricane.
09-08-2005, 04:40 PM #14Originally Posted by FireBlake12
Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalistsómyself includedódid not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
09-08-2005, 06:39 PM #15
A pole on CNN asks:
"Which level of government is most responsible for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina? "
They're all equally responsible"
The majority of respondents seem to believe that it was a federal responsibility. IMO, a lack of understanding into emergency planning and responsibilities throughout North America. Civilians don't understand and the media isn't helping...
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