Constructive criticism

What’s criticism for?

One of two things. Either it points out bits of empirical reality that was not taken into account before the present situation that will be useful the next time around, or it builds a case that someone or some organization is unfit for the job and needs to have it taken away. (What entity gets that job, and whether or not that job should even continue to exist, are of course other useful questions to be addressed…)

No matter what you think of Bush, he’s not going away. Neither is Blanco. (I don’t know about Nagin – what happens to a mayor when his city is deserted?) So most of the really useful criticism is that aimed at the first goal.

To that end, here’s a few questions:

1. Why were people prevented from leaving the area on foot, even when security and provisions were not available?

2. Why was Greyhound bus service suspended two days before landfall?

Now a couple of ideas for y’all to rip holes in:

1. Make it easy and legal to stockpile medication. The easiest and cheapest way to do that is to drop prescription requirements. I should point out to our friends on the left that this would end any problems people may have getting birth control pills, morning after pills, and so on. This would also lead to lots of unemployed pharmacists, so it’s not completely easy and painless, but it still improves matters during a disaster if some people don’t need to have medication brought in.

2. For that matter, some medical devices that are limited to hospitals ought to be publicly available. A respirator that people could stash away and use when the next bad flu shows up and all the hospitals are full would be cool. This will provide a profit motive to make the things easier for regular people to use.

Yeah, people are better off going to hospitals – when they’re open. Occasionally they’re not…

3. Priority during an urban disaster, in order: (1) Security, (2) Everything else. Our experience not only in New Orleans but in Iraq and Somalia tells me that security is priority 1, and that people will have a much easier time seeing to their own needs to some degree if the thugs are cleared out or deterred. In fact, once security is in place, other organizations can bring in the other stuff safely, and the government won’t have any reason to do things like keep Red Cross and other volunteers out with people going hungry inside.

4. If you’re going to drop water bottles into a flooded area, put them in sealed Zip-loc bags with air trapped inside so they’ll float. That should work with most other sorts of supplies too.

5. In any situation, disaster or not, your prospects improve noticeably when you have lots of wealth, technology, and energy. Technology and energy in particular have a way of easing logistical restrictions that hamper supply to disaster areas, hostile territory, etc. A deregulation spree will make these three things easier to get over the long term. More wealthy people means more resources to take care of the non-wealthy, and fewer non-wealthy to take care of, when bad things happen.

8 thoughts on “Constructive criticism”

  1. I think part of the problem with stock piling medicine is that medicine expires. Now medical supplies including various medicines should have been kept in the Terrordome to help the people huddled there, but those are going to need to be compiled in the days before the hurricane. You can’t just keep medications other than (maybe) aspirin in long term storage. And people whose medicine goes bad without refrigeration would still be in trouble. This just highlights the importance of a backup generator able to operate for several days at a time. Perhaps some company should look into creating special packaging for insulin that can keep it cold for several days at a time in case of a disaster or an emergency.

    Also, in my experience with birth control pills I’ve always had one or two extra packages of them. I thought that was normal.

    “If you’re going to drop water bottles into a flooded area, put them in sealed Zip-loc bags with air trapped inside so they’ll float.”

    Are ziploc bags strong enough to survive the drop? Some type of plastic bag packaging would be a great idea though.

  2. Time to repeal or heavily rewrite the post-Recontruction Posse Comitatus Act and allied legislation to end this dance and wait game before help request comes up the local-state chain long after the horse is out of the gate. You think with the telecommunications ability and mass media of the 21st Century, that maybe someone can make a quicker better decision?

  3. It would also be helpful to get some competent permanent management in the emergency-reponse establishment. Bush will never live down the appointment of (yet another) political hack asshat as FEMA director.

    This is consistent with the grab-bag of hacks who comprised the “Coalition Provisional Authority”. If we are going into the empire business, it is time for some centurions.

    We are coming to the 2006 by-elections, and if they become a ‘competence referendum’, we Republicans have some answering to do for this cock-up crew, who have spent the last few months funding the paving of Alaska and subsidizing the Exxons of the world, so beset by spiraling oil prices. Pretty soon the Democrats won’t need any ideas, just a good slogan like “Had Enough Yet?”.

  4. “Why was Greyhound bus service suspended two days before landfall?|
    Dunno for sure, but the “voluntary” evacuation was implemented about and all incoming highway lanes had been converted to outgoing to inrease traffic flow.
    “…it still improves matters during a disaster if some people don’t need to have medication brought in.”

    Dang, I shoulda kep’ that link… Anyhow, details probably wrong but the gist:

    I chanced on a medical blogger saying that she and other docs were in a meeting when they got word about the levee break and flood: they broke the meeting, grabbed what supplies they could, and went to a designated area. Local doctors and pharma reps kept arriving for the next three days with sample meds.

    Good, but some stuff – especially insulin injections – had to be gotten new. Luckily, they found out the big pharmas were willing to fill prescriptions, for free. Except – legally the patient still had to come up with a $3 co-pay.

    Except the pharmas could waive the co-pay at the request of the Red Cross. Problem fixed? Not exactly: the local Red Cross was quite willing to cooperate, but could not without authorization from HQ – in Washington. Which took a couple of days.
    “…A respirator that people could stash away”
    This really became feasible recently when a small and light one was mass-marketed. Some resistance for fear of misuse, but I’m starting to see them on lots of public building walls, by the fire extinguishers.
    “…water bottles”
    A plastic 20oz or less water bottle such as you buy in the market shuld float as-is: but not glass…
    The one incident I am aware of involved a helicopter dropping the bottles ten feet – which might have worked in the flooded area, but of course the people waiting (and the helicopter crew) had sought a [small] dry spot.

    = = = =
    add: some QUICK way for authorities to suspend selected laws short of instituting martial law. I mention this as I heard that to allow some incoming vehicles and/or local commandeered ones to be used with a shortage of drivers, the requirement for a CDL was suspended – Thursday or Friday…

  5. John Anderson, a plastic water bottle might indeed float but the point of the plastic sealable bag is that you wouldn’t want to put your mouth on a bottle dropped into the water covering N.O. that HADN’T been sealed in plastic. It would be a filth that, under the circumstances, would be impossible to remove and would render the bottle of water useless.

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