Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Government Disaster Preparedness is a Joke (Unless you are the President)

By Mac Salvo

We've seen it time and again over the last decade. An emergency strikes and panic grips the city or region for days or weeks on end.

We saw a complete breakdown of emergency response and law & order during Hurricane Katrina. The 2011 Snowpocalypse on the east coast led to runs on grocery stores and empty shelves within a matter of hours. Widespread blackouts during Hurricane Ike left large sections of the Houston power grid down for up to four weeks. In all these cases gas was almost impossible to find, what was in your pantry was what you had until food distribution resumed, local water was not safe for consumption, and government response was limited to reinstating essential services first and foremost.

The bottom line, as Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project notes, is that after billions have been spent by Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and local law enforcement, we are no more prepared today than we were the day before September 11, 2011.
After a short but unusually severe thunderstorm that roared through the D.C. area on Friday night, the entire Washington Metropolitan Area was thrown into chaos.
Three days later, countless traffic lights are still out, hundreds of thousands of residents are without power, including myself, grocery stores and gas station are closed for lack of power, and the federal government is encouraging employees to telework.
[SHTFplan Editor's note: Brilliant recommendation from the best and brightest – to "telework" when the grid is down. ]
Is this the work of a terrible terrorist attack? No, it is the complete disaster non-preparedness a decade after 9/11. Despite the fact that billions if not trillions have been spent since 9/11 on counter-terrorism and so-called "homeland security" measures, one of the major terrorist targets, the nation's capital, cannot cope with a severe thunderstorm.
I received a message from PEPCO that most D.C.-area residents may not have power until next Friday at 11:00 pm – a full week after the storm hit. With temperatures this week set for the mid to upper-90s, that is a long time for residents to be with air conditioning, or fans, or refrigerators.
Two years ago, the Washington Post's comprehensive examination of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on "homeland security," "Top Secret America" reflected that the D.C. metropolitan area was burgeoning with infrastructure, though apparently none of it focused on keeping the D.C.-area up and running after a severe thunderstorm.
I am not the only D.C. taxpayer wondering, where are billions in "critical infrastructure" protection and "homeland security?" They are not going toward obvious solutions like putting power lines underground.
The D.C. area's responsiveness to unexpected events has not improved, but taxpayers' pockets have been drained to create an entire secret city of "national security" in northern Virginia. Making sure citizens have food and power in an emergency should be a top priority, not a distant second to security theater like taking our shoes off before getting on an airplane.

(Pictured: Run on grocery stores; Snowpocalypse 2010)

Bottom line: Prepare yourself. They have nuclear bomb shelters for the President and other government elite---but not for you. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazingly enough, I've been in all of the disasters listed above. College in New Orleans for Katrina, Hurricane Ike in Houston during my first job, and then I moved to Baltimore just in time for the 3 snow storms of 20 inches or more. I still live in Baltimore so I can see what's going on with these thunderstorms. And he doesn't list Hurricane Irene last year which knocked out power to most of the East Coast (Vermont apparently got the worst of Hurricane Irene, but it seems news reports only covered the power outages in the Mid-Atlantic and New England).

    I'd give advise, but everyone has their own experience. If it's up to me, I'd rather just avoid natural disaster altogether. I constantly watch the weather during these seasons to make a decision at least 3 days in advance of what I'm going to do.

    In general, don't ever expect the government to help you in a disaster. They're useless. They lie to you. They're looking at the same websites and news reports you are and guessing about what they should do. There are no plans because you really can't plan for this stuff.

    The most interesting thing I saw and it still sticks out in my mind was in Houston during Ike. As the storm tailed off, people quickly began cleaning up. They didn't wait for the government to clear trees and debris from roads. They got out with their pickup trucks and chainsaws and started the work. Besides the flooding (from a vicious thunderstorm that rolled in the next day after Ike left), it was very easy to get around Houston after about 2 days. No one needed to coordinate these people or plan. It just happened. Spontaneous order if you will.