More Disastrous Disaster Planning

By cjohnson | September 2, 2005 9:13 am

There’s a lot more along the lines of the earlier post on Sidney Blumenthal’s article. There was a Salon article by Michael Scherer on the issue, entitled Anatomy of an unnatural disaster, and here’s an extract:

— Eric Tolbert, a former top disaster response official in the Bush administration, knew a calamity like Hurricane Katrina would be coming, sooner or later. And he also knew that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he worked until February, was not ready to properly respond. There were too few full-time employees, not enough contracts in place to provide assistance, and a lack of money to do proper pre-planning. The added burden of the war on terror, he says, diverted funds away from FEMA’s core mission.


Last summer, for instance, Tolbert said FEMA staged a “tabletop exercise” in Baton Rouge, La., to gauge how well it would respond if a Category 3 hurricane hit New Orleans. Officials learned a lot from the role-play, says Tolbert, and then returned to their offices to create a new plan to respond to an actual disaster in the region. “Unfortunately, we were not able to finish the plan,” Tolbert said. The funding for it ran out.

And whether or not you agree that any work on the levees would have made a difference in the face of a category 4 or 5 hurricane, (and there is discussion of this in the article that you should read) note this quote from one official:

“If the Army Corps capabilities for the SELA program had been fully funded, there is no question that Jefferson Parish and New Orleans would be in a much better position to remove the water on the streets once the pumps start working,” says Hunter Johnston, a lobbyist for Johnston and Associates who worked to secure the money.

…and note that one of the biggest dangers to life now is the fact that those flood waters are sitting there, spreading toxins and sewage -major threats to health in the long and short term.

The article closes with a comment on the funding that was required at the time, and how

The scale of such funding is almost laughable now, considering the scope of the devastation in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Politicians and lobbyists are just beginning to turn their attention to the massive cleanup and reconstruction bill, which will likely take years and cost tens of billions of dollars. But observers like Tolbert hope that the nation’s leaders learn some lessons from the experience.

The blame, he says, lies not with the local and federal officials who warned for decades of the coming disaster. It lies with those elected officials who refused to sign the checks. “The country deserves better than that,” he says.


  • iso42

    Some links to more details of the exercise “hurricane Pam” are on my blog (please click on my nick name).

  • Clifford

    Thanks wolfgang,


  • Greg Kuperberg

    An unrelated comment: All of the pages on this web site scroll very slowly in Firefox on Linux (Fedora Core 2). I am not sure why. I stripped the JavaScript on a test page, but the effect did not disappear. When I sent this very page to the W3C Validator, it said that it was riddled with errors. That is a problem in and of itself.

  • Clifford

    Thanks…. we’ll have a look. Question: does your test give the same result for other blogs using wordpress? Do tell. email us though… this thread is for other use.


    [update: Greg…. apparently we already knew about the page validation issues. We will try to resolve them in a while.]


  • Ex-Homeless Guy is a new disaster search engine/portal that takes all the great humanitarian crisis related websites and compiles them into one searchable database accessible anywhere internet is available.


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