Monday, September 05, 2005

No use blaming the Feds if you're dead

I discussed in an earlier post on the lessons from Hurricane Katrina the need to develop more effective evacuation plans. Along those lines is this New York Times editorial discussing local disaster planning in Hampton Roads on the coast of Northern Virginia.

What is most striking about this in comparison to the recent experience in New Orleans is not the amount of money being spent, or the race of the local residents or their wealth. The real contrast is simply that the local communities accepted that they were the ones who were responsible for their own safety and planned accordingly.

These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

It's a little like stepping onto a pedestrian crossing without looking for traffic first. It's no consolation that the drivers are supposed to stop if they fail to do so and you end up dead. Whatever the wrongs and rights of the Federal Government's failure to fund the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain and improve the levees it doesn't do you any good to simply point out that fact and to take no action. Rational and accountable state and local governments in Louisiana would have realised at some point in the past twenty years that they needed to act in the interests of their own citizens if the Federal Government wouldn't. If the New York Times with its centralist, big government philosophy can see it then it ought to be self-evident.

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