Thursday, September 08, 2005

Disaster 101 by Bob Williams

Bob Williams was the state representative for the district that contained Mt. St. Helens when it blew in 1980 killing around 70 people; it knocked out bridges, flooded homes with mud or destroyed them, destroyed good-size businesses and just blew away a lot. He is now the president of Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a Washington-oriented think tank in Olympia. They do first-class work. Williams covers the basics of who is responsible for what in a disaster. Samples:
The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin. 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 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.
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.
Congratulations, Bob, for getting in the WSJ, my main source of economic and national news.

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