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Friday 2 September 2005

Disaster Preparedness

Ah, so racist news media, total complete lack of plan for extremely likely disaster, people being told to gather for evacuation and then being left there to die. At the convention Center:

They were told to go to the convention center. They did, they've been behaving. It's unbelievable how organized they are, how supportive they are of each other. They have not started any melees, any riots ... they just want food and support. And what I saw there I've never seen in this country.

Babies were becoming dehydrated and dying. Old people in wheelchairs were wasting away. The sick were not getting their treatments. Neither the police nor the National Guard nor clean water nor food was anywhere to be found. The only vaguely official personage who had come to visit these forlorn, and now angry, people was Harry Connick Jr.

Another report:

Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area -- Saulet Condos -- once they tried to get cars from there... well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.

They mayor of NO was just interviewed, and he is rightly pissed as hell:

And one of the things people -- nobody's talked about this. Drugs flowed in and out of New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area so freely it was scary to me, and that's why we were having the escalation in murders. People don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about it.

You have drug addicts that are now walking around this city looking for a fix, and that's that reason why they were breaking in hospitals and drug stores. They're looking for something to take the edge off of their jones, if you will.

And right now, they don't have anything to take the edge off. And they've probably found guns. So what you're seeing is drug- starving crazy addicts, drug addicts, that are wrecking havoc. And we don't have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city and form a perimeter around them and hope to God that we're not overrun.

Read the whole transcript. The major point is that local plans, local action and local preparedness is not enough. A major crisis requires help from outside, federal and state support. As you've probably heard, there's a list FEMA made, back when they still handled disasters, that list the 3 most like things to befall the country. The list was Katrina, 9/11 and a major earthquake in San Francisco.

We all know "the big one" is coming. Maybe we have some plans or precautions. (I still haven't attached all my bookshelves to the wall.) Berkeley's disaster web page states what's supposed to happen if there's a quake, but none of this is going to be enough without federal support. If the major quake hits before the bridge is finished, people will have to leave SF either south or north, not east. Bart probably won't be running. Many SF and east bay residents don't have a car. It's unlikely the water system would survive, since it's in terrible shape.

In 1906, my great grandfather Neu (mother's mother's father) wrote a letter describing what the city was like. He described mounds of rubble, the stench of bodies. Another great grandfather Forge (mother's father's father) wrote about seeing the reflection of San Francisco burning from his home in Sunnyvale. In the south bay, there were also building collapses. Few chimneys were left standing. Forge was frightened and camped out for the night. In the city, a bunch of people moved to the park. There was major illness. Some guy was blowing up the city to stop the fire (which apparently wasn't as bad as often reported . . . most building owners had fire insurance and not earthquake insurance). The plague apparently became activated by the quake (the plague entered the US through SF, fun fact.)

In modern times, we'd still have building collapses (although fewer) and a loss of electrical and water. The earthquake that disabled the bay bridge and knocked over buildings in the Marina District was center more than 70 miles away. One right be the City would be devastating.

Like New Orleans, SF is full of drug users. It's also full of mentally ill people. Not just the homeless, but people who get daily medication. Any sick person with any serious illness, no matter what kind, who doesn't have access to needed daily medication is in trouble.

So when (this is not an if) there's a huge quake, we can look to the feds, to um, have de-funded FEMA and maybe they'll show up days later with some school busses. What's happening to New Orleans will happen to the Bay Area, unless there is some serious rethinking of priorities and some serious leadership at the federal level.

Earthquake preparedness. Local is not enough, but you want some water on hand, a flashlight, extra batters, a radio, fire extinguisher, preserved food, etc. My elementary school had all the kids bring in 2 days worth of canned food and there were big jugs of water in the back closets of all the classrooms.


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