Thursday, September 10, 2009

Katrina - What I learned

Scrolling through over 1500 jpg files over the last week brought back a lot of memories and picked a few scabs. I could have come up with a few dozen more pics and supported them with even more comments, but I think we all would have grown a little tired of the subject matter.

I would, however, like to share with you a few things that this tragedy  taught me.

1. I don't belong in the deep south. I thought that I might want to relocate there, but my trip to New Orleans taught me otherwise. The heat and humidity would lead me to an early death, I don't know how y'all deal with it. There are a few cultural issues as well, ones that I am sure I could adapt to, but it would likely take a while. I had read about cultural differences between various parts of the country, but had never experienced it until I went south. I am sure I wouldn't deal with New York or Philadelphia that well either, maybe I should just stay here.

2. Human beings are capable of tolerating an enormous amount of suffering if they have to. They won't like it, but deep down, they can be pretty damn tough.

3. I like grits. With butter and pepper.

4. We have to do a better job in evacuating pets with their people.

5. Politics suck far worse than I ever imagined. This applies to local and state politics as well as the feds.
Being told that the Governor of the State of Louisiana directed that search team members would be arrested if they entered and searched formerly flooded homes did nothing to inspire my confidence in politicians.

6. I like Blackhawks better than Chinooks (helicopters)

7. The disaster affected the entire socio-economic spectrum, from the homeless up through the country club set. In my last post, I mentioned that I had spoken with a certain veterinarian whose dog food we had procured to feed some abandoned dogs. While tracking him down, I met a woman on the phone. She was the wife of another vet, one who had a large practice in the area. Before the disaster, she was a stay at home wife, keeping busy with that lifestyle. After the disaster, she was learning how to run an office, as they were desperately trying to get their business running again. She mentioned that even if they could afford to hire their staff back, they couldn't as they were scattered all over the country. As a result, she was making it happen..

8. We need to plan better for regional disasters. Before Katrina, most agencies trained for regional disasters by simulating a mall collapsed here, a hospital on fire in the next town, a school collapse there. Katrina wasn't anything like that. Everything was out of service, for as far as you could see. Everything.

9. Do not rely on anyone but yourself when a large scale disaster strikes. You will likely be on your own for at least 4 to 5 days. Listen to the dorky public service announcements and be ready, you don't want to get stuck in the Superdome.

10. Disasters can and will happen anywhere. A large quake in the mid-west or in California, a volcano in the Cascades, another hurricane in the Gulf States or a terrorist attack anywhere. It could happen to you.. Your local and state government will be overwhelmed and the feds will take a long time to get moving. Heroic individual efforts will be made, but the magnitude of the event will overshadow them and make them seem insignificant.

My fellow blogge,r The Happy Medic, has started a series of posts covering household disaster pre-planning. His first post, one with a few simple yet important steps is here:
Take a look and again, be ready baby.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Thank you again Schmoe. I have friends who were deployed with FEMA in the relocation efforts and AC was involved with his team.
    We all do need to be prepared for a disaster, and I've started a bit of a Disaster Planning guide at HMHQ which I'll be updating from time to time. I would welcome your comments and suggestions on my ideas.

  2. This was a wonderful series! Thanks for taking the time and effort to post it!

  3. Thanks for your kind words.Katrina changed my views on a few things, primarily the commonality of the human condition. Paradoxically, it also emphasized the differences in the way different people view their role in our society. It was a surreal experience and although I hated every minute of it, I am glad I experienced it.

    Thanks for the comments.