PODCAST-An abysmal government response to Hurricane Harvey exposed inadequate planning, lack of resources and confusing attempts at invoking incident command that iced potential responders such as commercial drone operators. Rescue efforts defaulted to heroic, overwhelmed local crews bolstered by the truly remarkable “Cajun Navy”. In substantial form, social media played a key role for those attempting to contact responders. This show describes the nuances of the Hurricane Harvey landfall and offers precise protocols to improve future responses to natural disasters.
DECISION TO NOT EVACUATE HOUSTON
The decision to not evacuate Houston was correct and will be the standard decision moving forward for sentinel events. Infrastructure would not support a timely evacuation. Had Houston ordered an evacuation, hundreds, if not thousands, of people would have perished in their vehicles. This has become the standard (unwritten) protocol for all major cities across the world.
FOUR REASONS PEOPLE WON’T LEAVE THEIR HOMES
People have become desensitized to disasters. They have re-calibrated to a higher threshold “normal” torus. These are reasons why people ignore evacuation warnings (1) People are more likely to under-estimate importance of warning of event assuming that it won’t be as severe as predicted and will pattern to previous storms that weren’t “that bad”. (2) The duration of the event will be short. (3) No experience with interruption of resource supplies – can’t conceive this – no fuel, water, food, so on. (4) Assume government will intervene if situation does place one in imminent risk of harm
THE FEMA FUMBLE – MOBILIZING TOO FEW TOO LATE
A little leadership will go a long way. On August 30th, 24,000 National Guard troops were activated. This was 5 days too late. The initial rescue efforts were disjointed between agencies and residents were inundated with multiple phone numbers or websites to visit.
HERE COMES THE CAJUN NAVY!
The “Cajun Navy” formed 12 years ago following the 2005 Katrina hurricane in which a grassroots citizen group loosely assembled with boats, pickups and supplies to conduct house-to-house rescues. It operates with a “quiet” endorsement from politicians and open endorsement from the public. The CN responded, at no cost, to the greater Houston area with boats, trucks, water, food and personnel of various skillsets from farmer to meteorologist. Per its motto, “We don’t wait for help – we are the help”. They also took advantage of the latest technology – an app called Zello Walkie Talkie along with Facebook.
DO NOT REGULATE THE CAJUN NAVY
Various bills have aimed to place restrictions on the self-dispatched CN in the form of mandated training and licensing. This is bad politics. The CN embodies spontaneous organization of people with tacit knowledge, patriotism, and compassion rallying to form a system that exists long enough to carry out rudimentary rescue efforts. The CAJUN NAVY exists to fill the void created by foot-dragging FEMA. Listen to the show for David’s recommendations on how FEMA can re-shape its role in sentinel event response to one of efficiently coordinating resources through a single 21st century technological incident command system. Dr. Perrodin’s contacts in Texas helped inform content for this show.
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