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Disasters and Government, A Learning Curve

21 Feb

We can be thankful that governments are not all-knowing or all-powerful but there are times everywhere when we wish they were. These times usually follow a disaster. We wish the government had better known it was coming and been better able to cope with it when it did. If people have learned anything from the disaster of Hurricane Katrina it is that hindsight is 20/20. Until a government faces a disaster they can not be sure what will work and what will not and they will not realize what they didn’t think of.

Sometimes it might be beneficial to look at disasters in a microcosm and on a less grand scale. When something is the size of Hurricane Katrina the details get lost in the noise. Instead of Hurricane Katrina, think of Atlanta’s Snowstorm 2011. That is a little more manageable to put your head around and lets look at details.

In January 2011, Atlanta got 8 inches of snow followed by ice. To Detroit or Chicago that is nothing. That is spring there but Atlanta gets 2 inches PER YEAR. Needless to say, Atlanta was shut down for a whole week. What did they do wrong and what did they do right.

The roads where Atlanta’s biggest problems. A more proactive approach might have helped but the real truth is that they lack the equipment to handle a snow that happens once every 50 years. It is certainly not feasible to buy trucks for that.

Here they should have taken a que from some of the poorer, norther counties in the state that deal with this more often. Do they have more truck? No. They just simply have contracts with the construction companies to use them if needed. This gets the road clear at a reasonable cost to the tax payers.

Where Atlanta has learned is in the case of power. Not only were all their trucks running but also extra trucks from states that were not pummeled by the storm. It was a great example of the allocation of important resources.

Governments will never handle ever major disaster perfectly. The best we can hope for is that they have learned from the ones in the past and ready and flexible enough to learn from the one they are facing.


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