09/04/2005: Disaster Planning...
A DAY and F**king FOUR YEARS LATE since Septemeber 11, 2001 showed this bAdmin about our National vulnerabilities. The "Draft" plans apparently were just being sent out...but only DRAFTS...
What Went Wrong:Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top by Susan B. Glasser and Josh White
"The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.
Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.
Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government's highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe "an incident of national significance," the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.
If Hurricane Katrina represented a real-life rehearsal of sorts, the response suggested to many that the nation is not ready to handle a terrorist attack of similar dimensions. "This is what the department was supposed to be all about," said Clark Kent Ervin, DHS's former inspector general. "Instead, it obviously raises very serious, troubling questions about whether the government would be prepared if this were a terrorist attack. It's a devastating indictment of this department's performance four years after 9/11."
"We've had our first test, and we've failed miserably," said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. "We have spent billions of dollars in revenues to try to make our country safe, and we have not made nearly enough progress." With Katrina, he noted that "we had some time to prepare. When it's a nuclear, chemical or biological attack," there will be no warning.
The roots of last week's failures will be examined for weeks and months to come, but early assessments point to a troubled Department of Homeland Security that is still in the midst of a bureaucratic transition, a "work in progress," as Mencer put it. Some current and former officials argued that as it worked to focus on counterterrorism, the department has diminished the government's ability to respond in a nuts-and-bolts way to disasters in general, and failed to focus enough on threats posed by hurricanes and other natural disasters in particular. From an independent Cabinet-level agency, FEMA has become an underfunded, isolated piece of the vast DHS, yet it is still charged with leading the government's response to disaster.
"It's such an irony I hate to say it, but we have less capability today than we did on September 11," said a veteran FEMA official involved in the hurricane response. "We are so much less than what we were in 2000," added another senior FEMA official. "We've lost a lot of what we were able to do then."
The procedures for what to do when the inevitable disaster hit were also subjected to a bureaucratic overhaul, still unfinished, by the department. Indeed, just last Tuesday, as New Orleans was drowning and DHS officials were still hours away from invoking the department's highest crisis status for the catastrophe, some department contractors found an important e-mail in their inboxes.
Attached were two documents -- one more than 400 pages long -- that spelled out in numbing, acronym-filled detail the planned "national preparedness goal." The checklist, called a Universal Task List, appeared to cover every eventuality in a disaster, from the need to handle evacuations to speedy urban search and rescue to circulating "prompt, accurate and useful" emergency information. Even animal health and "fatality management" were covered.
But the documents were not a menu for action in the devastated Gulf Coast. They were drafts, not slated for approval and release until October, more than four years after 9/11.
"Basically, this is the rules of engagement for national emergency events, whether natural or manmade. It covers every element of what you would have expected to already have been in place," said the contractor who provided the e-mail to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because he feared jeopardizing his firm's work. "This is the federal government template to engage, and this is being discussed in draft form."
Karen on 09.04.05 @ 07:19 AM CST