Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blame Amid the Tragedy

The leftists continue to ignore the reality of the failures of state and local officials to act before and during Hurricane Katrina. I have posted here and other places, that the responsibility for planning and executing that plan is that of state and local officials, along with the initial respone to any natural disaster. While the FEMA and federal response, in some areas, could have been better, it is still the responisbility of the state and local governments to act according to their plan. This was not the case in New Orleans. A long excerpt from the New Orleans plan is posted in the preceding blogpost, along with the link to the full plan. Bob Williams, a former state legislator who represented the legislative district most impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, weighs in on these failures in his commentary.

'The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters. First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his/her emergency operations center.

The actions and inactions of Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.

In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.'

There was a total collapse of the government in New Orleans. Failure to follow any portion of the plan, resulted in complete chaos. As for Governor Blanco, her leadership was non existent. She was basically clueless on how to proceed.

'The New Orleans contingency plan is still, as of this writing, on the city's Web site, and states: "The safe evacuation of threatened populations is one of the principle [sic] reasons for developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan." But the plan was apparently ignored.

Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.

The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.

The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.

Instead of evacuating the people, the mayor ordered the refugees to the Superdome and Convention Center without adequate security and no provisions for food, water and sanitary conditions. As a result people died, and there was even rape committed, in these facilities. Mayor Nagin failed in his responsibility to provide public safety and to manage the orderly evacuation of the citizens of New Orleans. Now he wants to blame Gov. Blanco and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an emergency the first requirement is for the city's emergency center to be linked to the state emergency operations center. This was not done.

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.'

As I mentioned at the begining of this post, there is a link to the full New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, on the preceding blog post. The president should not have to tell the governor her job. The governor also refused a request to turn control over to the feds. There are some leftists that are actually cheering her on for that, labeling the presidents action as "strong armed". The failures by the mayor and governor border on gross misconduct. Blanco failed to show any leadership what so ever. Nagin simply ignored the city's plan. There is no excuse for that. The leftists will continue to ignore reality, as is their way, and try to lay blame at the feet of the federal government, as well as play politics with this tragedy. Nothing could be further from the truth. - Sailor

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