Dateline: Home Study
Katrina has come and gone, leaving death and destruction in her path. We suffered relatively little here. We lost electricity for a little over two days—nothing compared to how long it will be out in the southern parts of the state. Katrina certainly made us all aware of the power of Mother Nature and the relative powerlessness of man, especially man without electricity.
Without electrons I had no computer and pretty much everything I need is on the computer. I’ll move more of it on to my laptop but what I really need are removable hard drives. We use them in the military when working on the “high side” so that they can be locked up in the safe, but wouldn’t it be nice to have them at home for emergencies? In the event of an evacuation you could simply pull the hard drive and take it with you. Would that not be better than trying to pull paper files with insurance information?
It was also hot, especially at night. There have been editorials written about how we used to survive in the olden days without air conditioning. Yep, we sure did. I was a teenager before I lived in a house with air conditioning…in the southeastern United States! But you know, we always had a fan or two. At least at night, when the wind died down outside, we could have breeze blowing through the house. And those days were before the energy crisis of the 1970’s after which houses were super-insulated and sealed. In other words, in the olden days, houses were designed to function without air conditioning, today they are not. I wish the editorialists could remember that.
The other thing we are learning is that there are disasters and there are DISASTERS. Most of what we deal with throughout the year are isolated incidents such as a tornado. The damage is localized and relatively few people are affected. We can then send in huge assets to a small area and really work the problem. September 11, as tragic as it was, fell into this category. The Pentagon in DC and World Trade Center in New York were local sites. Panic spread and cities were affected but even then it was still localized and the infrastructure, for the most part, was functioning. Katrina is just the opposite—A large area was affected, infrastructure was not just damaged but is missing, and we can send in huge resources but they are spread over a large area. It will take a while to recover.
I also learned how stupid some people can be. Yes, stupid. True, some of the people in Katrina’s path couldn’t evacuate but many could. You can see them every night on the news now, especially in New Orleans, screaming for the government to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into. Yes, there are arguments that they didn’t have cars. Well look past the people and tell me what you see underwater. I see lots of cars and SUV’s. No, some people were stupid enough to ride it out and now they are paying the price. Unfortunately it cost some of them their lives. And it is not like this was unheard of. When you mention Camille in this state people immediately think of the 1969 hurricane, not some girl they met last week.
The people of New Orleans are an embarrassment to the entire South. It irritates me to see their complaints. Most of them should have left and then those who couldn’t have left would have been able to be rescued. Those who are suffering now are suffering, to a great extent, because of those who could have left but didn’t. Yes, they should feel guilty.
We are also getting a good sight of the lack of leadership in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Mayor Ray Nagin (D) had no plan for his city. Today he escorted visitors to the front of the line to get a bus out of town…in front of those who have been waiting for days. I’m sure he will not be re-elected. Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) had no plan for her state. Amidst the screams of where is the federal government I must ask, where is the state and local government and where is there request for help. No one expects the mayor, the governor, or even the entire state to handle this alone but why were they not doing more? Why did they not ask for help? This is a republic where we value the rights of individual states. I think we generally oppose have the federal government step in until they are asked. Bottom line, more could have been done and it could have been done sooner, but the problem is not at the federal level.
I have also been embarrassed by the people of my state and my town. We now have a gas shortage because of complete idiots ran to the gas pumps in fear of a shortage and filled up their SUVs and 55 gallon drums with gas. There is not and never was a shortage but there is now because of outright stupid people making a mess of things because they are not capable of engaging their brains! There really are some outright stupid people wandering around. The rumors I heard about refineries shutting down were downright silly and I’m sad that more people did not see them for what they were—rumors.
A similar thing happened following 11 September. Fortunately I was in Norfolk (with reasonable people) while an idiotic elected official in our area actually told people to go get gas because it was going to run out. Now how could he have said that? Idiocy!
Tomorrow we play our first football game of the season. I’ll probably not be there because I think it is ridiculous that we are even playing. This state is asking for federal aid but we are not going to let it interfere with football! A few days ago the prospect that hotels would be turning out those who sought shelter from the hurricane to make room for fans coming in for the game. Some actually contacting those with reservations and they all said “cancel my reservation”. So there are some good, reasonable people out there.
Of course last night on the news the university “leadership” was trying to work out something and doing a little hand wringing. They asked fans to consider canceling their reservations. Hmmm. All it would have taken from the “leadership” was a declaration that the game was postponed, and that problem would have gone away.
Strong leaders are hard find. It takes strength to make decisions quickly and to make the tough calls. Being a leader is more than being boss, and is more than surrounding yourself in the trappings of leadership. While I’m disappointed with “leaders” at many levels, Haley Barbour (R) is coming through as a champ. I think he showing the nation what a leader is, just a Rudy Giuliani (R) did on September 11. Is it just me or is they a definite (D) and (R) thing going on here? Effective leaders, (R); ineffective leaders (D).
Another sign of good leadership is the ability to stay calm under stress. Anyone who watched the news can attest to the fact the Ray Nagin (D) and the NOPD Chief have been anything but calm. They must settle down, lower the tones of their voices, and instill confidence in the citizens of their city. Their current actions are leading to more problems. Fortunately communications within the city are limited so most within the city are not able to hear their ranting.
And a final lesson is that communications must be improved, especially in times of disaster or problems. Four County EPA was unwilling to even give estimates of when power would be restored. They said they had learned that estimates were always wrong and they wouldn’t make them. Well, two words of advice. First, find out how to make better estimates so that they are not always wrong. Second, your customers would like to have estimates so they could plan. Will be a few hours in which case we will wait it out or will it be days/weeks in which we may wish to go spend some time with friends and family? I really don’t think that is asking too much. When I talked to people who can not even give me an estimate my immediate assumption is that they do not have a plan.
One of the most frequently heard comments from the people in New Orleans is “tell us what to do”. They need information and no one is able to give them any. Why, because they do not have a plan. That is a sad state of affairs and, in my opinion, indicates what a true lack of leadership they have. With the military stepping in now, there will be a plan and things will get must better, much faster.
I’ve exercised with the military, government, and civilian organizations in the past. Things are going to get better because those exercises showed me that the military and FEMA are the best organized institutions I’ve ever seen. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is on the scene now and is obviously taking charge.