Regulation

Katrina Redux

|

Remember the immediate aftermath of Katrina, when officials insisted on turning away willing volunteers? According to Dave Strano, a left-anarchist activist who wanted to help out after the recent Kansas tornado, the system hasn't changed much:

Shortly after the tornado, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) took control of the recovery efforts in Greensburg. The United Way became the coordinating organization for relief volunteers but, after orders came from FEMA, halted the flow of volunteers into Greensburg. FEMA demanded that Greensburg needed to be "secured" before the area could be opened to real recovery efforts.

So, as hundreds of recovery volunteers were told to not come to Greensburg by the United Way, hundreds of police from dozens of Kansas jurisdictions were mobilized to enter the city and establish "control."

Reports coming from the recovery effort in Greensburg had been woefully short of information. We made multiple phone calls to the United Way and other aid agencies, and were told repeatedly not to come, that "We don't need volunteers at this time." We were told that if we wanted to help, we should just make a financial donation to the Salvation Army or United Way.

The authorities eventually allowed volunteers to enter, as long as they reported to a tent operated by Americorps. Strano and his comrades signed in, then wandered the city.

After a short while, we met with several people evacuating belongings from their home. They told us that FEMA had been there for a week, and that all FEMA could offer them was a packet of information. The packet, however, had to be mailed to the recipients, and they had no mailing address!

More FEMA fun:

In the immediate recovery after the storm, FEMA and local police not only worked to find survivors and the dead, but also any firearms in the city. As you pass by houses in Greensburg, you notice that some are spraypainted with how many weapons were recovered from the home. This is central Kansas, a region with extremely high legal gun ownership. Of the over 350 firearms confiscated by police immediately after the storm, only a third have been returned to their owners.

The whole dispatch is here.

After Katrina, Neille Ilel watched some other anarcho-volunteers lend a hand in New Orleans. Her Reason dispatch is here.

More Reason Katrina coverage here.

Update: Looks like there's a benign explanation for the effort to collect firearms.

NEXT: Evangelicals and the State

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In the immediate recovery after the storm, FEMA and local police not only worked to find survivors and the dead, but also any firearms in the city.

    I would expect this kind of behavior from a federal agency if it was reporting to, say, a Bill Clinton who had no use for gun rights. I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed or surprised that it happens even though the boss man in the big house was put there by gun rights supporters and is from the party that supposedly is the bulwark against gun control and confiscation.

    And just what statute is it, I wonder, that allows FEMA or the local police to confiscate firearms?

  2. I was going to make a joke that “control” probably means performing totally unrelated shows of power such as looking for “contraband” – until I got to the last quote and realized that joke isn’t funny anymore.

  3. My mother grew up 25 miles south of Greensburg. A large part of my family still lives there. Greensburg was one of those, rare now days due to the huge influx of illegal immigrants and the contracting farm economy, classic American farm towns or neat houses and churches and shops. The kind of town that you only see in the midwest in places like Nebraska and Kansas. Crime is virtually unheard of and people tend to be very self sufficient and pretty hardy, you have to be to live out there and it is definitely “out there”.

    Leave it to FEMA and federal bureaucrats to assume that a small farming community of 1200 is full of criminals who are going to go crazy and loot. Must establish control. Forget about helping people, lets just make sure they stay in line. Assholes!!

  4. a left-anarchist activist was not allowed to wander around private property until it was secured?

    I seem to be missing the problem with that. Perhaps a different source for the rest of the information is in order too?

  5. Leave it to FEMA and federal bureaucrats to assume that a small farming community of 1200 is full of criminals who are going to go crazy and loot.

    Weren’t the first looters caught some of the rescue workers?

  6. Guy,

    The were National Guard soldiers and one active duty soldier from Fort Riley. They were caught taking booze and cigs from a destroyed store. Unbeleiveable. The Army is going to kill them. I hope they enjoyed the booze and cigs because it is going to cost them a few years at the bar hotel and a bad conduct discharge. Scumbags.

  7. I’m starting to wonder which is more frightening – a mile-wide tornado bearing down on your home, or the idea that after the storm, FEMA is going to show up and “help” you?

  8. The were National Guard soldiers and one active duty soldier from Fort Riley. They were caught taking booze and cigs from a destroyed store. Unbeleiveable. The Army is going to kill them. I hope they enjoyed the booze and cigs because it is going to cost them a few years at the bar hotel and a bad conduct discharge. Scumbags.

    I hope they get that or worse, rather than just a discharge or invitation to retire. If the reports were true of course.

  9. At the risk of appearing to defend FEMA…

    I think its not unreasonable to ask people to check in, in case something happens. Also, “secure” often includes things like clearing downed live power lines and dealing with gas leaks. Disaster areas are dangerous places, and even trained people can get into trouble.

    Of course, I’m sure there has been a lot of typical bureaucrat SNAFU. Though I would want to hear from viewpoints other than “a Lawrence based class struggle anarchist collective” before making too many judgements. I’d think that was a joke except they appear to be serious.

  10. Hmmm…not that I’m saying that FEMA is a well-run organization, but it does kind of make sense that if you’re trying to organize a large-scale recovery effort you don’t necessarily want a ton of untrained people wandering around possibly making things worse.

  11. Ha! Jennifer and I are on the same page.

  12. Oops, that’s Jammer, not Jennifer. Never mind!

  13. What does the federal government do well?

  14. What does the federal government do well?

    Shits on the Constitution better than a coprophiliac’s whore ever could.

  15. What does the federal government do well?

    We make some of the best weaponry available anywhere in the world, and we’re not afraid to use it.

  16. aren’t soldiers supposed to be the opposite of (the much feared around here) anarchists?

    Soldiers from a nearby military base were busted looting in Greensburgh. “Free beer!”

    The imported cops who “secured” the city let them in because they were wearing BDUs and had regulation haircuts.

    If we ever have a disaster around here, I want the governor to tell FEMA to fuck off. I’d rather be “helped” by scary “anarchists” than by the ham-handed and inept central-scrutinizer control freaks we’re passing off as government these days.

  17. Shits on the Constitution better than a coprophiliac’s whore ever could.

    That’s hot.

  18. We make some of the best weaponry available anywhere in the world……

    Trust me the Federal government doesn’t make anything (although they do print a great many forms and documents)! They spend tax money to buy…from those much smarter than themselves…weapons and then find themselves in a position of being not afraid to use them!

  19. We makepurchase some of the best weaponry available anywhere in the world from private contractors, and we’re not afraid to use it.

    Fixed.

  20. I will say one thing in defense of FEMA. If it is the case that they are seizing unattended weapons from debris and holding them until the rightful owners show up to claim them, then I don’t have a problem with it. I can see where weapons scattered over hell’s half acre is a problem and you are doing the owners a favor by policing them up. It is not clear if that is what is going on here.

  21. Trust me the Federal government doesn’t make anything . . .

    Literally true.

    However, most of these amazing gadgets are developed with federal dollars and from federal specifications, with the feds having substantial ownerhip rights of all derived IP.

    The sub-contractors need permission to sell to anyone other than the feds (with said permission frequently tied to the political motiviations of the current adminstration).

    So the feds don’t make anything, but many things wouldn’t exist without the feds either.

  22. Also given the flow of people between government agencies, military organizations, military sub-contractors, and third-party lobbying groups, it is not particularly obvious where the federal government actually ends.

  23. I read a pretty cool story this morning about a Greensburg alum involved in the golfing world, had heard that all the equipment for the high school golf team had been destroyed just 4 days before a regional tournament. He contacted Titleist who got the kids specs. and shipped out equipment, some of which had to be custom made, for next day delivery. Pretty trivial stuff, but still pretty cool to my mind.

  24. Also given the flow of people between government agencies, military organizations, military sub-contractors, and third-party lobbying groups, it is not particularly obvious where the federal government actually ends.

    It begins at the Congress authorizing funds and ends at the signature authority of a federal officer. No contractor can authorize a federal expenditure.

    Not as complicated as those crafty media types wish you to believe.

  25. FEMA sucks. FEMA has always sucked. It’s arbitrary, bureaucratic, and frequently useless. The whole Katrina political nonsense aside, FEMA sucked then, too.

    Bovard trashed FEMA like crazy during and after the Clinton years. I have a friend who used to deal with FEMA professionally (back in the 90s) who has only terrible things to say about the organization.

  26. It stops at Harry Truman’s desk.

  27. FEMA is hamstrung by the fact that simply because they’re part of the government, people will hold them to impossible standards.

    Consider that when New Orleans was destroyed by natural disaster, only something like 2,000 people died. That’s an extremely small percentage of the people in that area but don’t think that the various government agencies that were responsible for the keeping the loss of life very low will ever get any credit.

  28. Consider that when New Orleans was destroyed by natural disaster, only something like 2,000 people died. That’s an extremely small percentage of the people in that area but don’t think that the various government agencies that were responsible for the keeping the loss of life very low will ever get any credit.

    Don’t forget, the very first pictures of rescues there were those orange and white helicopters from that Coast Guard portion of Homeland Security.

    The Star Trek school of critics seem to think that transporters and tractor beams should have been used.

  29. Consider that when New Orleans was destroyed by natural disaster, only something like 2,000 people died. That’s an extremely small percentage of the people in that area but don’t think that the various government agencies that were responsible for the keeping the loss of life very low will ever get any credit.

    Damn straight. Have you losertarians already forgotten the inspiring scenes of National Guardsmen swimming through the stormwaters to pluck little children from the slime? And who knows how many cases of food poisoning and cholera were averted by the government’s turning back volunteers driving to New Orleans with food, water and other supplies?

  30. Various state and local government players were responsible before the mess in New Orleans for making conditions there so ripe for disaster. The chaos and the failings since then are not, in my mind, particularly the fault of the government. Fixing something like that isn’t easy.

    FEMA still sucks, however.

  31. FEMA still sucks, however.

    Those $2,000 ATM cards saved more lives than I can count.

  32. “FEMA is hamstrung by the fact that simply because they’re part of the government, people will hold them to impossible standards.”

    Yes, because we all know that suspending people’s civil rights and body-slamming little old ladies who are just fine, thankyouverymuch, instead of, say, helping to clean up the mess is an impossibly high standard.

    Look, if the Feebs aren’t able to actually help out, then at least you’d think they could get out of the way.

  33. Jennifer, Dan T. has no hope of winning that title. Your real competitor is Urkobold.

  34. suspending people’s civil rights and body-slamming little old ladies who are just fine, thankyouverymuch, instead of, say, helping to clean up the mess is an impossibly high standard.

  35. Hey? What happened to the rest of my last post? I pointed out that it’s all part of the social contract, and if the little old ladies didn’t like how the government was acting they were perfectly free to move to a community more to their liking.

  36. URKOBOLD ACCEPTS THOREAU’S CRINGING PLEA TO OFFER FEALTY TO THE URKOBOLD AND LOOKS FOR A NEW WAR.

    HOWEVER, URKOBOLD DESIRES NO WAR WITH JENNIFER, HAVING A WEAK SPOT FOR BOUNCY, BOUNCY PHONE SEX WORKERS.

  37. This is what happens when Republicans inherit a system created by Democrats: totalitarian nannyism. For all those amazed that a Republican administration is showing no respect for gun rights, remember that they only talk about gun rights in terms of “heritage” and hunting. A quick look at their foreign policy of macro and micro disarmament shows that they don’t want yokels anywhere to have guns if they can help it.

    I don’t know whether to be pissed at the Democrats for being so naive or the Republicans for being themselves.

  38. HOWEVER, URKOBOLD DESIRES NO WAR WITH JENNIFER, HAVING A WEAK SPOT FOR BOUNCY, BOUNCY PHONE SEX WORKERS.

    Not to mention knowing better than to start a fight he CANNOT win.

  39. DID YOU SPEAK? ALL URKOBOLD SEES IS BOUNCY, BOUNCY.

    BEAR YOUNG AND REPENT! OR BARE YOUNG AND REPENT–URKOBOLD IS PRO-CHOICE IN THAT REGARD.

  40. The war is ON, Urkobold. If that is indeed your real name. And the “bare young” thing is EXACTLY how I paid for college, remember?

  41. SIGH. URKOBOLD FORGETS NOTHING.

    PLEASE DISROBE.

  42. For once Dan T does make a good point. FEMA is held to impossible standards. Yeah, there were lots of stupid things done during Katrina, but it was an enormous operation. There would have been stupidity no matter how well it was run. Further, the fact that the largest and one of the most powerful hurricane’s ever hit the gulf coast in a heavily polulated area and busted the levies in New Orleans and only managed to kill 2000 people is a miracle. Back in the day hurricane’s like that killed 10s of thousands even though the population on the gulf coast wasn’t even a quarter of what it is now. But we live in a world of 24 hour news where anyone who misses lunch is “starving”, anyone who stays in their below sea level home despite being told to get out is a “victim of government incompetance” and anyone inconvienced by a diaster bigger than a nuclear weapon going off is only inconvienced because their government failed them.

  43. There is only one Presidential candidate who is talking about this. FEMA used to be an overweight organization that managed a small measure of effectiveness. Then it got shoved under the Homeland Security umbrella, and now it’s just a bloated mountain of lard whose every attempt at movement crushes those too slow to avoid it.

    I would give the name of that candidate, but Reason would think I’m just comment spamming, so I won’t. But if we want to get away from a government that thinks that the priority in emergencies is to confiscate guns, then we need to get him elected.

  44. the fact that the largest and one of the most powerful hurricane’s ever hit the gulf coast in a heavily polulated area and busted the levies in New Orleans and only managed to kill 2000 people is a miracle. Back in the day hurricane’s like that killed 10s of thousands even though the population on the gulf coast wasn’t even a quarter of what it is now.

    But not a miracle the government wrought; it had more to do with a combination of “accurate forecasts and ample warnings to leave before the storm struck” combined with “those with the means and the wisdom to leave did so.” The reason hurricanes were so deadly “back in the day” is that nobody had any idea they were even coming until they struck.

  45. I’m kinda with Jammer on this one. FEMA most probably does suck, but in this case the observations cited don’t really strike me as a slam dunk case for the prosecution.

    Alternative scenario: FEMA/state police allow anarchist volunteer relief workers who don’t know shit about relief work and various other lookee-loos to comb the area immediately after the storm. Some end up in the emergency rooms of neighboring towns, a few die, additional looting occurs. FEMA gets pilloried for not managing the scene properly.

    Also, the gun thing doesn’t strike me as a massive rights abridgement, for the reasons pointed out by John. The fact that only one-third of the guns have been returned thus far doesn’t stir much outrage either. Most of these people are probably living some distance away from Greensburg right now, and have matters more immediately pressing to attend to than recovering their guns. Hell, the fact that their guns have been sequestered is spray-painted right on the front of their houses, so it doesn’t strike me as some sort of sinister gun grab on the part of the feds.

    Some of the language in that post is pretty entertaining ideologically, but I do salute Mr. Spano’s efforts to at least do something to provide relief.

  46. The fact that only one-third of the guns have been returned thus far doesn’t stir much outrage either. Most of these people are probably living some distance away from Greensburg right now, and have matters more immediately pressing to attend to than recovering their guns. Hell, the fact that their guns have been sequestered is spray-painted right on the front of their houses, so it doesn’t strike me as some sort of sinister gun grab on the part of the feds.

    I have not yet heard of any gun owners complaining that they tried to get their property back but the feds would not let them have it back. Does not mean it is not happening, but also guessing Radley would be on top of that one swiftly.

  47. My wife works for FEMA. She led a medical team that was posted just outside the storms path well before Katrina hit. Her team went in when the winds dropped under 50 mph, chainsawing their way through tree clogged roads hours after the storm passed. There were thousands of FEMA employees deployed before the storm. There were FEMA teams in the superdome during the storm. Any news story that doesn’t start out with “Despite massive federal assistance …” is pretty much crap. It seems the general public expects FEMA to actually turn the tide.
    As for accepting volunteers, it’s hard enough to keep the people with training safe, let alone hundreds of wackers looking for a thrill. Ever see what a chainsaw can do to a newbie? Ever step on a nail? Meanwhile, beside whine, what have you folks done? Get some training, join a VFD or an ambulance corps and do something productive.

  48. It seems the general public expects FEMA to actually turn the tide.
    As for accepting volunteers, it’s hard enough to keep the people with training safe, let alone hundreds of wackers looking for a thrill. Ever see what a chainsaw can do to a newbie? Ever step on a nail? Meanwhile, beside whine, what have you folks done? Get some training, join a VFD or an ambulance corps and do something productive.

    Most of them watch Star Trek, does that count?

  49. “But not a miracle the government wrought; it had more to do with a combination of “accurate forecasts and ample warnings to leave before the storm struck” combined with “those with the means and the wisdom to leave did so.” The reason hurricanes were so deadly “back in the day” is that nobody had any idea they were even coming until they struck.”

    That and the massive evacuation effort that took out over a million people in lower Louisiana alone. See Ron’s points above. Further, if FEMA accepted every volunteer willy nilly, all it would take is for one criminal to volunteer and use their position in FEMA to commit some horrible crime and all of the people who now scream that FEMA won’t accept volunteers will then be screaming about FEMA incompetance for taking too many volunteers.

  50. Further, if FEMA accepted every volunteer willy nilly, all it would take is for one criminal to volunteer and use their position in FEMA to commit some horrible crime and all of the people who now scream that FEMA won’t accept volunteers will then be screaming about FEMA incompetance for taking too many volunteers.

    All FEMA had to do was get the hell out of the way of those who would actually help. And would that mythical criminal FEMA volunteer be worse than the real-life military looters?

  51. “All FEMA had to do was get the hell out of the way of those who would actually help.”

    Give me a break. Which is it, is FEMA incompetant because it didn’t get there fast enough or because it didn’t “get out of the way of those who would actually help”? It can’t be both. Katrina was a disaster of unimaginable proportions. It devistated 90 miles of coast line and two large cities and smaller towns up to 50 miles in shore. Hattisburg Mississipi took it on the chin and it is not that close to the coast. Do you honestly believe that the only reason bad things happened is because FEMA got in the way? That the whole thing could have been handled on a volunteer basis with no assistance from the state or federal governments? That is just nonsense.

  52. yeah get productive or don’t criticize the government!

    ron, i think part of the issue here is that the government is interfering with small affinity groups trying to do their own thing, especially in the face of massive government failure.

    it’s almost like they want things to suck, thus justifying more spending increases. (i don’t believe this, since i think the suckitude in some cases, like katrina, was unavoidable due to several layers of stupid in the local, state and federal govs)

  53. Give me a break. Which is it, is FEMA incompetant because it didn’t get there fast enough or because it didn’t “get out of the way of those who would actually help”?

    My main complaint has been with them interfering with those who would help. In an emergency I don’t expect the government to save my ass or anyone else’s, but I DO expect it not to interfere with somebody who IS trying to help.

    Or at the very least, don’t have the gall to make things worse and then tell me it’s for my own good.

  54. Jennifer,

    Back off, lady, we’re helping you. Here, let me persuade you with this bat.

    Typical bibertarianism. Tyranny in the name of doing good.

  55. Dhex, my point was there wasn’t massive govt failure, at least not Fed-Gov. Who do you think owned all those orange helos? In a disaster of any size small goups just don’t do it, they don’t have the logistical support, communications, training, etc. It’s why Mom and Pop stores fail when Walmart comes to town. You need orginization to scale a response.
    Get productive and stop talking out your ass, which is what you’re doing.

  56. “I have not yet heard of any gun owners complaining that they tried to get their property back but the feds would not let them have it back. Does not mean it is not happening, but also guessing Radley would be on top of that one swiftly.”

    The NRA took Louisiana law enforcement to court for exactly this, actually.

  57. And won, I might ad.

  58. ad = add

    dammit.

  59. What you guys don’t get is that things are not that simple. Effort without planning and coordination is ussually wasted effort. If the wind blows your fence down, the sollution is for you and your neighbors to rebuild it. If a hurricane hits and devistates a few 1000 square miles and completely knocks out the infrastructure supporting a few million people, not everyone can save their own ass and even hoards of well meaning volunteers are not going to cut it. If anything, huge numbers of people roaming around a disaster area with no coordination or planning are going to make things worse not better.

  60. John, you’ve got it. Been there and saw it happen. Wackers become victims and you have to haul their butts out, wasting time and equipment. But they mean well….

  61. If the wind blows your fence down, the sollution is for you and your neighbors to rebuild it. If a hurricane hits and devistates a few 1000 square miles and completely knocks out the infrastructure supporting a few million people. . .

    . . . then FEMA will find some way to make it illegal for you to focus on your own backyard and rebuild your own goddamned fence, and anyone who offers to lend you a hand will get the run-around instead.

  62. Jennifer, do you have an example?

  63. Jennifer, do you have an example?

    Yes, but first an admission: I said “FEMA” when I should have said “the government.” That said:

    Confiscation of guns, lest the citizens of New Orleans be able to defend themselves after the cops either abandoned their posts or joined with the Wal-mart looters

    Sheriffs forcing people at gunpoint to turn back when they tried to walk out of the devastated city

    Volunteers with truckloads of food and water turned away while official government-approved food and water STILL hadn’t made it to those who needed it

    …and too goddamned many more to recall.

  64. Does a subject exist that Jennifer has not mastered? She’s now an expert at managing natural disaster recovery.

  65. Dan T.

    Are you married? You should know that women know more than men… 😉

  66. YES, DAN T., YOU PATHETIC BLIGHT ON THE SOUL OF TROLLDOM, THERE IS A SUBJECT THAT SHE IS NOT ABLE TO MASTER. JENNIFER IS NOT THE MASTER OF HER OWN DOMAIN.

  67. Jimmy, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that doing things like forbidding people to evacuate a devastated city might not be in their best interest.

  68. Jennifers right in part. The stunningly corrupt LA staties and NOLA locals did some eye-rollingly stupid things, and then blamed FEMA for it. Knowing the other side of the story, it really annoys me.

  69. Nobody’s saying that FEMA or the various governments involved worked perfectly, but it’s pretty clear that few here are willing to give the government even an ounce of credit for keeping the country’s worst natural disaster from being a whole lot worse.

    I mean, people here are seriously suggesting that had the government done nothing, volunteers would have magically organized and provided better results. This sort of thinking requires an almost religious faith.

  70. John and Ron,

    Effort without planning and coordination is ussually wasted effort.

    Has nanny-statism ever been expressed so succinctly?

    What astonishing hubris to tar independent volunteers as “wackers looking for a thrill” who are more likely to need saving and are more likely to commit crimes than the FEMA blessed and the National Guards, who are documented as being inadequate for the task to begin with, counterproductive with what they do have, and to frequently commit looting and violate simple civil liberties.

  71. There were tons of stories about outsiders — not just ordinary people but trained professionals — who came to New Orleans to help but were turned away by one agency or another. This was not standard operating procedure in the past.

  72. Which is it, is FEMA incompetant because it didn’t get there fast enough or because it didn’t “get out of the way of those who would actually help”? It can’t be both.

    Why, yes! Yes, it can be both! They are incompetent and bureaucratically slow, and they didn’t permit groups of volunteers to help. The only thing that they did competently was keep anyone else from helping.

    I cannot fathom why FEMA and the National Guards cannot work alongside irregular volunteers. Yes, there will be criminal opportunists. There are criminal opportunists in FEMA and the Guards. Having irregulars there will provide extra eyes to watch the watchmen, as well as each other.

    What is the historical precedent to support this “order at all costs” approach to disaster recovery? We certainly now have precedent for why not to use such an approach.

  73. Meanwhile, beside whine, what have you folks done? Get some training, join a VFD or an ambulance corps and do something productive.

    Some of us are taxed like hell to pay for the bang-up job FEMA does. Right now, in NOLA, FEMA (yes they are still there) pays $1000s monthly per apartment to house employees brought in from other parts of the country to work. This is on top of salaries and expenses which include paid parking, food and utilities.

    I will say that a few of those employees are generous with their expense money- my son in law parks cars for them.

    TWC- can you do our taxes next year? Gotta get the bill down. I’ve done enough for FEMA and its ilk and they don’t pay my utility bills. At TX summer rates, I need to keep more of my cash. ;o)

  74. Jennifer | May 18, 2007, 2:59pm | #

    Jimmy, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that doing things like forbidding people to evacuate a devastated city might not be in their best interest.

    Um, I wasn’t arguing against that. I’m sure there’s plenty of readers that you can discuss that with.

    I was simply stating that ‘women know more than men’ 😉

  75. What does the federal government do well?

    Kill people.

  76. Remember when FEMA was going to be at the center of ushering in the New World Order? Now we know they couldn’t organize a gangbang at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch. Kind of takes the shine off of X-Files reruns don’t it.

  77. There were tons of stories about outsiders — not just ordinary people but trained professionals — who came to New Orleans to help but were turned away by one agency or another. This was not standard operating procedure in the past.

    Well, you’d hope FEMA would be spending their time trying to rescue and shelter people and keep the general peace instead of trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of people who show up wanting to help.

    I mean, resources were scarce and they were trying to get people out of a dangerous disaster zone…why would they want to send untrained, unaccounted-for people into the zone, however good intentioned they might be?

  78. Rimfax, since you mention hubris I think it’s fair to point out that I’ve been a volunteer fireman since 1976, got a MS in chem in 84 and have worked in industrial and regional hazmat teams ever since. My wife is an ER MD I met doing mountain search and rescue in the late 80’s. I’m teaching an incident command class tomorrow.
    She’s been working with a FEMA team since a few days after 911 and she was deployed to Katrina for months. I’ve been to national conferences with her and got to meet many of the other FEMA teams that were deployed, and listened to their stories over dinner and beer, etc, illustrated with digital pics and video clips on laptops.

    Your qualifications are what exactly?

    I’m sick to death of listening to Cliff Claven clones pontificate about how FEMA screwed up. Talk about hubris.

    And theres no good reason for the ignorance. The local fire and ambulance services are begging for new members. Most community colleges have EMT classes. There’s a wealth of ICS training availible on line, much of it through FEMAs website.

  79. I’ve been to national conferences with her and got to meet many of the other FEMA teams that were deployed, and listened to their stories over dinner and beer, etc, illustrated with digital pics and video clips on laptops.

    Whoa! You went to a national conference and listen to shoptalk? Well, that clearly negates any criticism one might have about FEMA.

    Did you hear, everybody? FEMA workers know how to use a digital camera and put videos on a laptop! That means tales of their incompetence can’t possibly be true.

  80. Well, they were there. They have the pics to prove it. My wife was there. I’ve been though most of the FEMA training with her. You were in CT doing what?
    Chatting on the phone, perhaps?
    Going into a big disaster is more dangerous than going into a structure fire, and yet these armchair theorists can tell you just how it’s done, and scoff at the ones who really did it.

  81. Has nanny-statism ever been expressed so succinctly?

    Good Lord, man get a grip. FEMA and other agencies might have done a better job of dealing with volunteers, but simply allowing them into the disaster area with no coordination was no solution either. Even a barn-raising requires someone to direct traffic.

    Any %$%*%^ football coach will tell you that all the effort in the word won’t do squat if you don’t act like a team.

  82. Going into a big disaster is more dangerous than going into a structure fire, and yet these armchair theorists can tell you just how it’s done, and scoff at the ones who really did it.

    No, I’m scoffing at the ones who said “We’re the only ones allowed to do it, and even though we’re not doing a good job we will refuse help on behalf of those to whom it is offered.”

    Even a barn-raising requires someone to direct traffic.

    And it absolutely has to be someone from the government. Nobody else is smart enough, right? And if the government fucks up, nobody else is allowed to step up to the plate.

  83. Jennifer, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

    We get it – you simply cannot bring yourself to acknowledge any good done by the government. Duly noted.

  84. My point is you’d be a fool enter a disaster area without a plan. Freelancing gets people killed. Contrary to popular opinion, FEMA had a plan, one that worked pretty well. Unfortunetly like I said, it seems the general public wanted them to stop the tide. Other groups were there. Salvation Army for one. They had a plan. If you want to help, join a team that can actually support a rescue effort and become part of someones plan.
    And yes, you were scoffing at the ones who actually did it. Most of the men and women I know from FEMA are ER docs, with a generous portion of fire chiefs thrown in, along with at least one EE who sets up communications. Smart, honest people who gave a lot of their time, for a GS grade well below their normal salary, and you’re belittling them.

    Meanwhile, your expertise in this is what? You watch TV? You saw Backdraft?

  85. DAN T., YOU SQUIRREL-LIKE THING, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT WHEN JENNIFER STOPS DIGGING HER HOLE, SHE INTENDS TO THROW YOU INTO IT? AND THEN REFILL IT?

    URKOBOLD WOULD SIMPLY ALLOW HER TO KEEP DIGGING AND STOP PROVOKING HER WITH STATEMENTS ABOUT STOPPING.

  86. Dan T I think you’ve hit it. Time for supper with the kids.

  87. Even as a liberal Democrat, the FEMA comments are too critical. I drove to Greensburg that same night–270 miles away. It was/is my hometown. Since I was there, I’d like to add to the discussion.
    FEMA does have to ensure that helpers aren’t killed trying to help, falling stuff, electrocution, gas lines, etc.
    Also, they were searching for survivors and found one a day or two later!
    But FEMA was slow to allow residents like my parents to get in, in my opinion. They seemed about a day late in allowing residents back in.

  88. For once the Urkobold speaks truth. The silence you hear is the sound of raw dirt doing nothing, as it’s already filled the lungs it was destined to stifle.

  89. Ron,
    When you get back from supper, please take time to read this report regarding FEMA and it’s failures in New Orleans and tell us your informed opinion on it.

    To quote parts of the intro:

    When the levees broke, pundits pointed fingers everywhere. Most concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency hadn’t done enough to evacuate people or bring them aid, but in the end, it was the agency’s sins of commission, not omission, that made its response so disastrous.

    As Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco complained, “No one, it seems, even those at the highest level, seems to be able to break through the bureaucracy.”

    FEMA turned away generators needed by hospitals, refused Amtrak’s offer to evacuate victims, and didn’t return calls from the American Bus Association. Sheriff Dennis Randle of Carroll County, Indiana, had a team ready to help, but was never able to navigate FEMA’s approval process to enter New Orleans. FEMA failures caused millions of pounds of ice to be shipped mistakenly to Maine and Arizona, and firefighters and rescue squads to be sent to areas where they were of little help. A mobile communications unit with a chartered plane sat in Germany for nine days because FEMA didn’t return its calls.

    FEMA’s model required both the demands for relief and offers of supply to be communicated first to the agency for approval. Private individuals and local governments that attempted to bring in their own supplies quickly found that FEMA would not allow it.

    FEMA actually confiscated medical supplies for Methodist Hospital and fuel purchased by Jefferson Parish, and even prevented the Red Cross from entering New Orleans.

  90. If I were a conspiracy theorist, and I’m not thankfully, I would say Katrina was a dry run for government agencies to prepare and get feedback for the coming country-wide martial law and police state after we’re “attacked.” This provided training in taking over and “securing” large urban areas and also a testing the reaction to and the ways in which the country will be systematically disarmed.

    If I were a real nutty conspiracy wackjob, didn’t Dave Koresh say one of the reasons the government was attacking them was that he was “revealed” that one of the plans of the government was to use urban gangs and prisoners to enforce an upcomming martial law? (I heard it today on NPR, srsly!)

    Man, thank god I’m not into conspiracies though lol. That sounds completely preposterous.

  91. THE PREDESTINATION OF DIRT–URKOBOLD LIKES IT!

    YET, YET, I FEAR THE RISE OF. . .ZOMBIE DAN T.!

  92. Kwix,
    Are you asking are those accusations true? Damned if I know. Are there incompetents in every large organization? Undoubtedly, but not as many as some here would like to think. Were there screw-ups in a massive ad-hoc supply chain? Probably. Any idea what percentage of goods shipped this represents, or how soon after the storm and for how long was the stuff delayed? Will CATO cherry pick to make a point? They have an agenda.

    I know my wife and her peers had all the stuff and staff they needed to run a couple of field hospitals treating hundreds of patients a day each. There were many such hospitals scattered all along the Gulf coast, in spite of massive damage to the roads, bridges, etc. Did whole towns disappear? Yup. Can we fix that? Nope. Are the local and state governments corrupt as hell in LA. Looks that way to me. Interesting that Mississippi didn’t have the same complaints, even though Bay St Louis, and the aptly named Waveland had a 30 wall of water engulf the town.

    Were the $2K cards a bad idea? I’ll give you that one.

    The rest of it sounds like politics to me.

    NACT,
    You sound like those John Birchers that infested usenet back in the 90’s. Is that goofy crap still floating around? Hell, everyone knows it’s really the “grays”. (grin)

  93. And it absolutely has to be someone from the government. Nobody else is smart enough, right? And if the government fucks up, nobody else is allowed to step up to the plate.

    Oh for Christ’s sake, work with the context, will you? That’s not even close to what I was saying. Consider what I was replying to.

  94. The Governor of Kansas needs to stop using Jesse Adam Macbeth to write her soundbites. Her claim that the State could not respond because her National Guard units were deployed to Iraq was a pure load of Fairbanksing.

  95. “Those $2,000 ATM cards saved more lives than I can count.”

    Last night a DJ saved my life for the first time.

  96. John writes: ” Further, if FEMA accepted every volunteer willy nilly, all it would take is for one criminal to volunteer and use their position in FEMA to commit some horrible crime and all of the people who now scream that FEMA won’t accept volunteers will then be screaming about FEMA incompetance for taking too many volunteers.”

    Then again, wasn’t a high-level staffer at DHS caught with child porn?

  97. Regarding the collection of firearms in Greenberg, that would seem reasonable to me IF 1) they were collected from destroyed or non-securable untenanted homes only and 2) they were put in custody of local police who, theoretically, would be more likely to know or recognize the owners.

    There’s no point confiscating weapons from homes with functional door locks – those guns are no less secure than they were before the tornado. On the other hand, if a home’s only standing wall has a stocked gun rack attached to it, it’s probably not a bad idea to get those under lock and key until they’re claimed. (This would probably be more important in more populous area, however.)

    If the owners are on-site, then probably all that is necessary is a reminder to secure the guns. This could be difficult, if the family car was destroyed and they’re getting a ride to shelter at the high school where there would be no way to secure the guns during sleep.

    And putting the weapons in the custody of locals prevents the all-too-common case where an ignorant outsider from the Federal Government treats everyone as suspect, making things much harder and far more frustrating than is necessary.

  98. Ron writes: “Going into a big disaster is more dangerous than going into a structure fire,”

    Is that a big part of the FEMA training? No wonder keeping helpers out seems to be Job 1.

  99. Helpers are quite welcome to help. But if you’re going to make someone or something responsible for what the helpers do and responsible for the helpers safety then that someone or something is probably going to want to check the helpers out before they send them in, and maybe even train them first. Make sure they have their tetanus shots before they step on the nail, make sure they have their Hep A shots before you send them into a lake of feces. Teaching them about how to shut off a gas line and to handle blood bourne pathogens, how to run a radio and who to call for help might be on the to-do list before you send them in.

    And yes, learning what is dangerous is a part of the training too. Just common sense really, like teaching people to not assume power lines that are down are also shut off. You’d be surprised how many people learn that the hard way.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.