September 2, 2005

Myths demolished...

Like throwing sandbags on the crumbling levees of civic sanity, bloggers, writers and radio hosts have been swarming on the crazy accusations that are being churned out by the moonbats. James Robbins has a good article in NRO demolishing the myth that Iraq has left too few troops and guardsmen available for emergencies. He's got the numbers, you can read it for yourself. Also, compared with past disasters, the Federal response has been very fast.

You can see great pictures of our troops helping in New Orleans and the region at Army Times' Frontline Photos. Starting with 8/31.
National Guard convoy in New Orleans
A Louisiana Army National Guard convoy makes its way
through the flooded streets of New Orleans
on Tuesday, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
M. Scott Mahaskey / Army Times 8/31/2005

And it's important to remember (well, it wouldn't be if certain people crazed with partisan venom weren't slinging stupid accusations non-stop) that the responsibility for planning for a predictable disaster is local. Not federal. It is the job of San Francisco to plan for earthquakes (and we do); to have the necessary communications and organization to coordinate emergency response. Including asking for and coordinating state and federal help when needed. New Orleans has been facing the possibility of flooding for at least 40 years, with the Mississippi flowing right through town, well above the height of many buildings.

But there were no plans. Byron Preston has pix of hundreds of school busses parked in New Orleans. They could easily have been used to evacuate tens-of-thousands of people. City busses and emergency vehicles were simply abandoned in the streets, to be destroyed by the water. There were no...well, the list is very long. Never mind. The thing is, it is extremely difficult for outsiders to accomplish much when they are groping around unfamiliar territory. They can spend days just finding out what's needed, and establishing communications.

As an example of disaster planning, here in SF we have NERTs, Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, with HAM radios and generators...

...In the event of a major disaster, the disaster management for City of San Francisco decentralizes into what are called Emergency Response Districts or ERDs. There are ten ERDs in the City, each having the geographic boundaries of the ten Fire Battalion districts. In this decentralized mode the fire Battalion Chief is responsible for all tactical disaster response and management issues within that ERD. These battalion chiefs or ERD leaders report to the Office of Emergency Services where the city department heads and their operational people gather to make overhead decisions and to support the tactical response of the ERDs.

Within each ERD there may be several NERT neighborhood and business teams. Each of these teams has its own staging area or place where team members gather to make decisions on actions to take and assist teams in mitigating disaster events. Each team can work independently of each other and independently from Fire Department directions. The first actions the teams take is to form a command structure for operations, or Neighborhood Command. This is a basic form of the Incident Command System (ICS) with sections for command, logistics, operations, intelligence and administration. Being a modular system it can grow or contract as needed. The Neighborhood Commands exist to support activities in the neighborhood and make decisions that will do "the most good for the most people". The incidents that are beyond the scope of training, collapsed buildings, major fires, hazardous materials spills are immediately reported to the ERD.

There are redundancies built into the NERT communication system. The first choice for communications is the telephone. This may not always be possible because of the amount of phone traffic following a major disaster or the possibility of the system being overloaded by telephone receivers being knocked off the hook by the quake. As a back-up form of communications every NERT team has at least one HAM radio operator equipped with a portable HAM radio. The NERT organization also installed HAM radios in each of the ERD fire stations with a base station installed at the Office of Emergency Services. Thus the NERT teams are able to communicate with each other, with the ERD and when necessary with the Office of Emergency Services. If all other systems fail, the NERT teams will default to using written messages and runners to communicate...

Posted by John Weidner at September 2, 2005 3:47 PM
Weblog by John Weidner