After Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina, we have believed that every major city, every state and the federal government has a disaster relief plan in place to respond to emergencies that we have come to anticipate.
From there, we believe that for disasters beyond what we expect there is a far-reaching relief network set up that allows for the coordination of agencies that cut across boundaries, such as state lines, county and city justifications, and opens up communications between police, fire, medical and military agencies. Does anyone remember that September has been designated as emergency preparedness month?
This time, it is a natural disaster with a defined beginning and end of the storm. Next time, it could be a dirty bomb that requires the evacuation of any major city in this country with an undefined date of return. We have been planning for almost 10 years, and we cant decide if a marathon needs to have priority over the needs of the displaced. No plans were in place to get gasoline into the area.
We watch as our local workers send help from out of state, only to see them sent back home because of a labor dispute. We see the governor of New Jersey surprised that the federal government offers to help. And we wonder why there has to be a mention about keeping the rules from getting in the way when we had believed that there were rules in place to follow which help the afflicted.
When I was young, we had a term for what we are watching: It was called a “Chinese fire drill.” I believe it is time to get serious and do the planning as if we might actually need it and stop pretending everything is just fine.