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Rapid response to disasters ...

by Bill Osler / September 10, 2005 7:05 AM PDT

I've seen posts questioning why the feds responded so badly to Katrina, explanations involving the separation of federal and state power and so forth.

Who coordinates US response in foreign disasters? Civilians? Military?

I'm not sure I understand how our response overseas is different from our response domestically, but I assume that there are a lot more layers of bureaucracy involved when the disaster is inside the US.

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The OFDA
by Angeline Booher / September 10, 2005 8:44 AM PDT

The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is the lead responder and coordinator of the U.S. Government to disasters in foreign countries. OFDA works to minimize the human costs of displacement, conflicts and natural disasters, thus supporting sustainable development - the key to maintaining development gains, stability and prosperity - and U.S. national interests.

Under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, the President has designated the USAID Administrator as the Special Coordinator for International Disaster Assistance. The disaster assistance program is implemented through OFDA and channeled through a range of U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, United Nations agencies, USAID field missions, other U.S. Government agencies, universities and institutional contractors. OFDA also utilizes various interagency agreements with several other U.S. Government entities.

Through its Military Liaison Unit, OFDA coordinates with the Department of Defense on issues of logistics, transport of relief supplies and outreach to units with which OFDA has a close working relationship. USAID field missions and the interagency community are often essential partners in any foreign disaster response, and their understanding the processes involved in providing disaster assistance affects OFDA's ability to ensure timely, effective and appropriate assistance. OFDA has developed numerous approaches and practices to enhance this collaboration.

http://www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/cbj2005/cent_prog/central_dcha_ofda.html

Looks like a separat civilian agency.

Angeline
Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email
semods4@yahoo.com

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Thanks
by Bill Osler / September 10, 2005 10:13 AM PDT
In reply to: The OFDA

I always assumed that the military was not completely in charge even though it seems that their efforts are the best publicized official government activity.

Maybe we need to let the folks at OFDA take a larger role in dealing with domestic disasters. Of course, that would require the states to have less control. That would make the proposal DOA in Congress.

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Probably has to do with
by dirtyrich / September 10, 2005 9:35 AM PDT

a greater part being played by the military and NGO's... who do not have to contend with bureaucratic slowdowns as much.
Also, I heard commentary on the radio the other day that the "Acceptable" standards of living for disaster refugees in other nations are much lower than in the US... a central kitchen serving soup and bread, and tents for shelter satisfy most other nations. Here, those would be an "insult" to the refugees who expect a much higher standard of living.

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You may have a point there. In fact, ...
by Bill Osler / September 10, 2005 10:10 AM PDT

Use of the word 'refugee' is apparently an insult to the displaced people of New Orleans. Or so I've been told by at least one commentator on NPR. I have not had the opportunity to verify that perspective by talking to 'displaced persons' or 'evacuated households' or whatever politically correct label is currently in vogue.

If people are offended by simple, direct language then they will indubitably be offended by simple, subsistence level emergency aid.

One thing I can say in support of using something other than tents is that it can get mighty warm in New Orleans. Tents would be pretty miserable. Still, they are presumably better than sitting under a tree without access to food or plumbing.

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Power restoration...
by J. Vega / September 10, 2005 10:25 AM PDT

This is as good a place as any to stick this in. A couple of hours ago I talked to relatives living in the suburbs of a small town about 50 miles as the car drives (less as the crow flies) from downtown NOLA. Their power just came on. Note: their part of the subdivision took a little longer, the the business district there was up a day or so before. Another relative in a town abot 20 miles closer says that their power is up too. Note: they just went back. Their house is O.K., but they said that the smell in the refrigerator leaves something to be desired, to say it midly.

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Hi all
by Josh K / September 10, 2005 10:47 AM PDT
In reply to: Power restoration...

We're in Texas and just got our computer set up yesterday. All went well except for some car trouble I had in Arkansas, which I can write about in another post (it's quite a tale).

But on the topic of the thread, my brother-in-law was driving our other car. He's an ex-Marine and is currently the head of a private security firm. On our way down to TX we passed a number of National Guard convoys on their way to Louisiana and Mississippi. As we passed each convoy, my BIL would call me on my cell and explain what the different trucks were for and how these kinds of operations are put together. It gave me an appreciation and some understanding of why it took as long as it did for troops to move into the affected areas.

I haven't read many of the posts on the topic of response to the disaster, but I can pretty much guess how it went. I'm going to keep out of it. The important thing now is to help the living, properly dispose of the dead, and start cleaning up and rebuilding. Sniping about whose fault (if anyone's) it was can come later.

Peace out, y'all.

Happy

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How about the movers...
by J. Vega / September 10, 2005 10:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Hi all

Did the movers get all your household stuff there O.K.?

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Hi J:
by Josh K / September 10, 2005 12:42 PM PDT

Yes, everything went just fine with the movers. Nothing missing, a couple of things scratched but no real damage. They were very professional. We used United if anyone is looking for a recommendation.

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DID the Feds respond badly?
by EdH / September 10, 2005 10:40 AM PDT

I keep hearing this but I haven't heard anyone say HOW. What did they do wrong or not do that they should have?

If Mike Brown was so bad and "inexperienced" then how on Earth did he manage to handle several hurricanes in 2004 which was the worst hurricane season to date. WHAT exactly did he do wrong? I have yet to hear an answer to that either.

Many myths are being spun. I'd like to hear some specifics, please, from anyone?

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Perhaps I should rephrase ...
by Bill Osler / September 10, 2005 10:49 AM PDT

'Responded badly' is in the eyes of the person doing the assessing. I have seen allegations that there was a slow response and that we do better in responding to overseas disasters.

I can't say that I know the accuracy of either of the allegations (slow response at home or better response abroad).

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I understand
by EdH / September 10, 2005 10:59 AM PDT

Not venting at you specifically, but I've heard this claim over and over and still nothing to back it up from anyone.
I just watched another show on TV where they were raking Brown over the coals for having no experience in managing disaster relief, yet no mention of 2004!

It's like the "thousands dead" that seem not to be matreializing either.

If the premise is incorrect the conclusion is likely to be incorrect also.

Could it be they pulled the trigger on Brown too early?

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Don't know about Brown ...
by Bill Osler / September 10, 2005 11:23 AM PDT
In reply to: I understand

I'm not even sure what is realistic in response to a disaster of this magnitude. It seems clear that everybody involve was inadequately prepared to cope with the scale of the destruction. That said, SHOULD we have been prepared? There are costs to everything, including preparedness. Then, when faced with a disaster, some of the leaders were overwhelmed. That is not surprising. In fact, I think that the events in NO actually serve to underscore just how effective the leadership in NYC was after 9/11. Things could have gone very badly there also. What standard should we hold our leaders to? I seriously doubt that most local and state leaders would perform as well as Mr. Giuliani and I'm not sure we should rationally expect them to do so.

As to disaster preparation, consider an example. North Carolina has experienced earth quakes in the past. It has been a long time, but they have occurred. Should NC be fully prepared for a massive earthquake? Personally, I don't think we should devote a lot of resources to that threat. However, if an earth quake does occur then I'm sure that somebody will point to something that predicted the earthquake in terms that were (with hindsight) unambiguous. If we DO have full scale preparations for an earth quake somebody will point out that it is likely to be a colossal waste of resources. It is even possible that critics on both sides are right.

So, consider the hurricane. Katrina was at one point or another Category 4 or Category 5. I think it was Cat 4 at landfall, but the category doesn't really matter. Everybody knew that a Cat 4 storm would do massive damage to NO. Everybody also knew that in any particular year the risk of a Cat 4 or 5 storm striking NO was low. My understanding is that most folks thought that the city was more-or-less prepared for a Cat 3 storm.

Given that the extra preparation for a Cat 4 or 5 storm is/was very costly and resources are always limited was it reasonable to reject the funding requests for upgrading the levees and such? Maybe it was. The decision looks bad in retrospect but I'm not sure what the alternatives would have been at the time the decision was made. What would we have given up if we improved the levees?

Setting public policy priorities is hard, and hindsight is always more clear than foresight. I'm not sure what we should realistically have expected of the government at any level in this storm.

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The best example, EdH, is Brown's on-air comment
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / September 10, 2005 1:48 PM PDT
In reply to: I understand

that the Federal Government had "just learned" about the plight of thousands at the New Orleans Convention Center, when it had been covered in detail by every TV network for at least a day and a half by that point.

-- Dave K, Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email semods4@yahoo.com

The opinions expressed above are my own,
and do not necessarily reflect those of CNET!

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What he said was...
by EdH / September 10, 2005 8:49 PM PDT

"We learned about the convention center today." He didn't say WHAT tehy learned aboyt the convention center.

As far as the media reporting in detaol, as we've seen, many of those details were wrong.

Doesn't seem like it rises to the level of hanging someone.

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Because N.O. officials didn't bother to tell him
by Evie / September 10, 2005 11:26 PM PDT

Who's fault IS that??

Hint: Not Brown's.

Evie

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Sorry but it's his job to KNOW
by EZRIDER714 / September 11, 2005 3:14 PM PDT

Millions of people paying only casual attention to the news coverage DID. Myself included

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How much of what you KNEW was wrong?
by EdH / September 11, 2005 8:34 PM PDT

Inaccurate, exaggerated, etc.? We have seen that much of what was reported in the media was not accurate or overblowm. That was my point.

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So you think the FEMA director ...
by Evie / September 11, 2005 10:13 PM PDT

... should have been causually watching the news. Get real. The "news" got a LOT of stories wrong. To hear most of the reporting, the swarms of people lining the interstate being shown were on the verge of rioting and when the camera panned there seemed no reason to think that based on the behavior of the crowd.

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I'll bet you are a great ball player...
by Edward ODaniel / September 12, 2005 4:47 AM PDT

from that easy chair and a few days after the game when you've heard the media's opinions to use as your own too.

Having worked in EOC's very little communicating is done via news reports on unavailable TVs and civilian radios are not played as there are actual communications that MUST be heard and acted on.

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(NT) (NT) Lack of immediate response qualifies as BADLY
by EZRIDER714 / September 10, 2005 2:53 PM PDT
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You could say that about ALL levels of government...
by EdH / September 10, 2005 8:32 PM PDT

and certainly Nagin and Blanco reacted far more poorly than anyone at FEMA.

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The inquiry wasn't about all
by EZRIDER714 / September 11, 2005 3:07 PM PDT

levels of government.
Even if that's a fact it does not raise the federal response above BADLY.

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(NT) (NT) What inquiry are you taking about?
by EdH / September 11, 2005 8:30 PM PDT
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(NT) (NT) It has no idea!
by Edward ODaniel / September 12, 2005 4:41 AM PDT
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OK, all....
by Angeline Booher / September 12, 2005 5:57 AM PDT

.... there is plenty of blame to go around.

This has been kicked around over and over, and it always ends up starting personal sniping.

Angeline
Speakeasy Moderator
click here to email
semods4@yahoo.com

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