Saturday, June 17, 2006

disasterous disaster planning

According to the Department of Homeland Security, only ten states have adequate disaster plans: Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

According to DHS's Nationwide Plan Review, "The current status of plans and planning gives grounds for significant national concern." Not very reassuring.

Sure, disaster planning is hard. Some disasters are pretty easy to foresee and should be able to be planned for, and STILL aren't. The most obvious example of failed planning was demonstrated by the poor federal, state, and local response to the Katrina-induced flooding in New Orleans, a very predictable scenario (DHS Secretary Chertoff's absurd, lying assertion that nobody foresaw such an event notwithstanding).

I see a couple of problems with disaster planning. One is that there is no profit in it, and in a country where "tax" is a four-letter word, resources are scarce, and it's natural (if short-sighted and lazy) to want to spend what you have on immediate needs than on preparing for something that may never happen. Another problem is the patchwork of local government in the US. Federalism has a lot of merits, but when a disaster strikes and you have federal, state, county, and city/township level governments trying to respond (or trying to plan), things get complicated.

But these are factors to deal with NOT excuses for inadequate planning. The first obligation of government is to protect the people from physical harm, whether at the hands of an invading army, criminals, or natural disaster.