Recommendations to our government on how to handle large numbers of displaced people when a catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina occurs.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT BUSH about the relief effort underway in the City of New Orleans.

“I don’t want this on my conscience as an American!”

What to do with the displaced people of New Orleans that have not found adequate shelter.

1. Because of the massive flooding in the City of New Orleans, it is likely that shelter will have to be found for tens-of-thousands of former residents of that city, if not more, for a longer-term period than anticipated.

2. Convention centers and the like, even the Houston Astrodome, etc. - good as they may be in a pinch - are really only “short-term” solutions to address a problem of this nature and magnitude - but they would, however, be an excellent staging location for processing and disbursing people as I suggest below.

3. I know of only one solution where all the elements are readily available “now,” to deal with this situation of “what to do with tens-of-thousands of suddenly homeless people.“ I suggest the immediate use of existing “military bases” to provide these people with realistic longer-term shelter.

Consider the following:

We have more than 100,000 troops currently deployed in Iraq. Prior to the War in Iraq, these troops were located in “barracks” in the United States. If the war were to end tomorrow, and these troops returned…I’m sure there would be:

a. a location for each of them to go to

b. a bunk in a barracks for each of them, with a toilet and a shower

c. a local mess-hall for meals on the unit grounds

d. a local medical dispensary

e. a hospital on the base

f. a PX (military supermarket/department store)

g. clothing issues including footwear

h. recreational facilities

i. anything else not listed that an individual would need

This, reasonable living situation, is a “lot different” than the situation the people sleeping on cots in the Astrodome are facing, and heaven compared to the situation of those still wading around in downtown New Orleans - most still wandering around in a state of shock, and who have yet to make it to a place like the Astrodome….

Being a veteran - as many who read this are - I know that the military is highly efficient when it comes to “organizing and covering all the basics/needs” of the individual/group/large groups who suddenly come onto a military base, in most cases from a very different set of life circumstances….

So, I am suggesting that a “military base” is the best place - the only place I can see at this time - to give extended shelter to such large numbers of people as those displaced by Katrina in New Orleans.

(I would also extend this “relocation option” to others in the Gulf states with similar circumstances, of having lost everything, and with little means.)

Some points:

I am not saying that large numbers of displaced people can be temporarily housed at the nearest military base. They could, however, be dispersed to various locations around the country. Few existing individual military bases could probably handle more that a few hundred, perhaps a thousand, refugees each, on such short notice, so dispersion would be necessary. However, this is what we have to work with.

Personnel on designated bases could be shifted around to make additional room, and in some cases relocated to other bases, etc. (people in the military are already prepared for sudden moves.)

Also, there may be other facilities - pending base closings, for example, where facilities are already vacant, but that could be quickly restored to life.

You, might also give some thought, as you read this, to the “wisdom, or lack of,“ with respect to the recent base closing plans. In view of the magnitude of this current crisis, we may someday wish we had such backup facilities, for example: in the event of another hurricane, or an earthquake, chemical/biological attack, or “dirty bomb,” etc.

From a psychological and sociological standpoint, the quickest way to defuse much of the crisis in the New Orleans area, is to get those people into a more stable and normalized living situation, someplace where they can start to rebuild their lives - and this is not going to happen from the Houston Astrodome, as good a short-term play as that is. Could you rebuild your life if you suddenly found yourself crowded in with thousands of others, with little privacy, limited facilities, and little to do…. These people are depending on the “rest of us” for help, in one of the most trying periods of their lives. They “need to be dispersed” back into the “mainstream” in order to recover, and they cannot do this without our help. Most are in the greatest crisis they have ever faced in their lives, and “what are we doing?“ Most of us are just watching them on CNN - or when we can’t take it anymore, switching on the Mets and the Phils, or doing the millions of other routine things we do, “can do,“ because we are not “in a life-threatening situation” like them.

This whole thing is “literally shocking to me” - not the fact that we have a catastrophe to deal with - “but how ineptly we are handling it!”

With respect to how we are handling this crisis…let me extend my profound gratitude and respect for the ongoing efforts being made by the many individuals who make up the police and fire departments, the Red Cross, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the Salvation Army, local government officials, and all the other volunteers from the various relief agencies who have so valiantly responded to this crisis. In my opinion, they are doing a “terrific job,” against almost insurmountable odds. So, lets “help them out, too” and not “waste their efforts” by giving them “no place” to move the people they are trying to help “to.”

In all of this, I am largely taking issue with only one point: "the government’s planning and handling of the probable long-term relocation and maintenance of the citizens of New Orleans” into a reasonable living environment. Other than this, I have little quarrel with the way our government is responding to this crisis. As part of this issue, I also cannot accept the incredible notion that somehow we can make New Orleans livable and return it to it’s former glory and it’s residents to their former homes anytime soon. This will “not be accomplished in a matter of days or even weeks,“ in fact it may take years, if we decide to, or can do it at all. In the meantime, does anyone really think you can keep tens-of-thousands of shocked people bottled up in the Houston Astrodome? Let’s use our heads here, on this one. "It ain’t gonna happen!" so we might as well get those people on buses and relocated!!!

There is really only one readily available solution, that I can see, to address a problem of this magnitude - and one that we can and “should” be moving on quickly. It starts with some fast communications to the various military bases, getting fleets of buses moving to a staging area like the Houston Astrodome, and moving people out and dispersing them into a “mainstream” life situation again. Those facilities, by the way, like the Houston Astrodome, will probably still be needed by even more displaced victims of Katrina that have yet to surface.

Ps. I posted this on this site, in view of the seriousness of this crisis, the fact that in my opinion, I think our government is showing itself grossly unprepared to deal with a large-scale crisis of “relocating thousands of people” in the event of a calamity of this magnitude.

Also, remember this “very important point:” it could be, not only you and your family, but all the people in your community for miles around that have to be “relocated quickly” in the event of some future calamity, especially in these uncertain times of the ever increasing global terrorism.

So, in closing, let me ask you to take a moment, and imagine yourself “in the shoes” of some of our unfortunate fellow Americans in the City of New Orleans, who used to “have a life” in the “Big Easy.” I think they deserve better than “a cot in the Astrodome” for the “indefinite future,” while we go on with our “normal lives.”

Please think about this message, and the ideas contained in it.

Email it, or the link, to your Congressman or include it in a community flyer.

In view of how this New Orleans situation is developing, we need to get the word out, “especially to our government,” about how we want them to respond to a crisis of this magnitude, not only now, but in the future.

Obviously, after Katrina, we now know that we should have plans in place and facilities available to shelter “large numbers“ of displaced people in a timely manner, and the transportation readily available to move them to those facilities (many city people don’t own a car, for example), should a catastrophe of similar magnitude occur again.

A late point: I just heard that the Senate has appropriated “ten billion dollars” to cover disaster relief in this case. If the government doesn’t want to use the military bases as I suggest, then lets, at least, use that money to charter and bring “massive fleets of buses” to the scene, and “get those people out of the water,” not only for their sake, but to give some “daylight and a breather” to “all those valiant people trying to help them.”

With the relief money, the people rescued can then be put up in every motel that can be booked in adjoining states. (if the government does not want to use, in my opinion, the better option of military bases.)

And “if and when” they can make New Orleans livable again, “then” the people of New Orleans can and will return.

And, lastly, let’s not forget: that in the next crisis “you” might be the “one in the pictures you see on TV!”

I don't know about you, but I don't want to find myself and my family, at some point in the future, crowded in with thousands of others at the local ballpark or convention center, for an "indefinite stay" (with limited sanitary facilities, food, water, security, communications, order...and sleeping with little or no privacy on a cot), realizing that my government obviously "never did have a descent plan in place" for realistically dealing with a large-scale emergency involving large numbers of people!

So, let's get our government moving on this, and demand that they draft and put in place realistic and effective plans to deal with this kind of emergency - and demonstrate the capability to carry them out - so that we "won't find ourselves in circumstances similar" to the ones being currently lived out now on the streets of New Orleans by our "fellow Americans!"

A fellow American


At Friday, September 2, 2005 at 2:53:00 PM EDT, Blogger an American said...

OK! Looks like our government is responding very well to the crisis in New Orleans.

I was expecting this a bit sooner, but, having worked in logistics and planning, I can sympathetize with the preparation "that has to go into a relief effort" of this magnitude.

We should all be relieved that HELP is finally being applied on the large scale made necessary by such a catastrophic event, as Katrina.

Now, we all have to be patient and extend our gratitude and generosity to all those people and agencies involved in the relief effort.

So, with time and our patience, we should recover from this tragedy.

a fellow American

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