Katrina And The Blame Game

Watching the desperation and panic of the people of New Orleans, it is difficult to find any kind of perspective on this horrific event. However, the blame game has begun; and, the biggest targets are already under fire. President Bush and FEMA appear to top the current list. This game gets no one anywhere.

It’s always easy to point fingers. The difficulty comes in truly determining if we failed, where we failed and how we can improve for the future. There are some immutable facts: 1.) an evacuation order was imposed for the entire affected area; 2.) one can never absolutely know what Mother Nature will decide to throw at us or where; and, 3.) in a free country, no one can force people to leave their homes and businesses.

Most forecasters did not predict Katrina would become a Category 5 storm early on. Yet, the forecasters have no culpability — even though all the decisions made by each affected governor depended upon them performing their craft accurately. Yes, everyone understands Mother Nature is a fickle lady.

Shortly after Katrina, a certain amount of partying began in New Orleans. Federal and state governments (as well as the media) thought the city had dodged the bullet and wasn’t under immediate threat. Then, the levies broke and the city began to flood. Whose fault was that? Considering the levies were only built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane, it would seem to lay itself at the feet of state and local planners and engineers. It’s likely a mistake they will likely not repeat.

It is a bit mystifying why no one seems to be blaming the people that chose to stay. We (federal & state governments) cannot evacuate the entire Gulf Coast when there’s a hurricane in the Gulf. We cannot forcibly bus people out of Florida when they choose not to go. And, the entire multi-state National Guard cannot be mobilized on the East Coast every time a hurricane threatens to make landfall. Must we not take some level of personal responsibility for our own choices and their results? Sure, some of these people may have been unable to leave, and that is a tragedy. Perhaps the government should have provided more transportation. Remember, though, it was only about 24 hours prior to landfall that Katrina became the monster.

By the way, is it really fair to ask our men and woman in the service to save our lives and those of our loved ones at the risk of their own? Should our lives supersede their needs and the needs of their families? Now, these fine military men and women believe in what they do, and do it without question. They have been well and fully trained to perform these jobs. My point targets the philosophical argument. Unfortunately and all too often, the lives of all first responders are placed in jeopardy because of our own folly. They must save us from ourselves.

Let me present this basic concept to you: Sometimes, **it happens. This is life . . . and, unfortunately, death. You can’t always prepare for it; and, it can occasionally catch you with your pants down around your knees. No one is to blame. This was a disaster of epic and unprecedented proportions from which we will draw some tough and costly lessons. We should realize how blessed we are that we live in a nation where things like this so rarely happen — where the government (federal, state and local) often plans well to stem the tide of disaster. No country, no state and no family can ever be prepared for every conceivable event.

Take personal responsibility for your welfare and that of your family. Heed evacuation notices. Maintain a family disaster plan and a Disaster Supplies Kit. In our drive-thru society where water, food and medicine are taken for granted, try to remember nothing is a given. Your local chapter of the American Red Cross can help you prepare with their brochure: Your Family Disaster Plan. You can also visit their Web site for information on line.

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One Response to “Katrina And The Blame Game”

  1. Big Dog says:

    It is not a surprise that people did not leave despite the lashing the New Orleans Mayor gave everyone. Last year they sent out surveys about disaster and one-third of all respondents said they would not follow a mandatory evacuation order. A point you make well is that you can not make all the people leave and if they do not, they and they alone are the reason for their situation.

    I think people who stayed behind were inconsiderate. They are now placing the lives of rescuers in jeopardy because they would not listen. I know it was short notice but you can not convince me that everyone of those people had no way out. Not when they are on the news saying “I wish I would have listened to them when they said to leave.” In addition to placing rescuers in danger they are hampering the clean up because resources are diverted to them instead.

    And they should take the jackass shooting at helicopters and feed him to the gaters.