Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cold, But Effective

The past few days have seen the partisan hacks at the NY Times (Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd) blame the President for most of what's gone wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Today's Times contains a refreshingly sane op-ed from John Tierney:
Mr. Bush made a lot of mistakes last week, but most of his critics are making an even bigger one now by obsessing about what he said and did. We can learn more by listening to men like Jim Judkins, particularly when he explains the Magic Marker method of disaster preparedness.

Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.
While mistakes were made, and will always be made at all levels, any type of disaster preparation begins with a plan. Did New Orleans have a plan, and if there was one in place, was the problem with the plan itself or with its execution?