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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

the real lesson of katrina

Ivan Eland asks the right question, "Will the Government’s Abysmal Response to Katrina Recur During a Terrorist Attack?"
If state and local governments expect that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), residing in the nation’s distant capital, will step in after any disaster, they have incentives to invest less in planning for disasters and developing the capabilities to execute post-disaster operations. Unfortunately, any impairment of such state and local efforts can be tragic because the people who live in the local area, or near it, know best the needs and capabilities there in any emergency. For example, New Orleans, below sea level (which required levees and pumps) and near a large lake, was uniquely vulnerable to a hurricane, and the experts and the public there knew it. Yet state and local planning was clearly impeded by an excessive reliance on the federal man on a white horse galloping to the rescue. For example, Louisiana planners were waiting for federal funds to repair the levees holding back Lake Pontchartrain, which eventually broke and flooded the city.
The response to every failure seems to be the same, reward the screw-ups with even more money and power over our lives. Will they perform any better when it's a terrorist attack instead of a hurricane? Or will FEMA block the Red Cross from helping victims the next time, too?

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