RUDDERLESS IN NEW ORLEANS
September 8, 2005
The city of New Orleans issued a "Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan" for hurricanes well before Katrina arrived, and the document gives a window into how city officials saw their roles in the aftermath of a hurricane, says the Washington Times.
The city envisioned itself taking charge of issuing a warning, ordering and managing evacuation, arranging buses for those without any other transportation, setting up and maintaining shelters, and other critical duties. Given the corruption in municipal agencies, it was inevitable that a picture of responsibilities unfulfilled would emerge after a storm like Katrina, says the Times.
Among the most notable unfulfilled self-imposed responsibilities:
- The mayor was meant to order an evacuation 48 hours before the hurricane landfall, not 24 hours, as he in fact did.
- The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority was meant to "position supervisors and dispatch evacuation buses" to evacuate at least some of the "100,000 citizens of New Orleans [who] do not have means of personal transportation," but it did not; the flood claimed the buses.
- The city was responsible for establishing shelters coordinated with "food and supply distribution sites" which the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and others were to provision, but the city did not.
City officials appear to have been well-apprised of these responsibilities, says the Times. As late Aug. 1, officials close to the planning confirmed that the transit authority had developed plans to use its own buses, school buses, and even trains to move refugees from the city when disaster struck.
The city declared that its hurricane-preparedness procedures were "designed to deal with the anticipation of a direct hit from a major hurricane." Such a hurricane hit, and New Orleans was not prepared, says the Times.
Source: Editorial, "Rudderless in New Orleans," Washington Times, September 7, 2005.
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