Based on what we saw in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it’s clear that we are much less safe in this country than we thought when it comes to dealing with a disaster of that magnitude. It was obvious that the preparation and response by government at every level was very poor. Alabama and Mississippi did a much better job than the state and local authorities in Louisiana. While the local officials in Louisiana made mistakes, the efforts by top officials in the federal government were substandard at best. The federal government’s very slow and uncoordinated responses to Katrina should serve as a needed wakeup call for our national political leaders. We have had four years after September 11th to get prepared for disasters, and our overall response to Katrina leaves me greatly concerned. Unfortunately, the federal government failed to respond to an emergency every bit as serious and deadly as a terrorist attack. The preparation and response to the second storm, Rita, showed that we did learn from Katrina. The responses in both Texas and Louisiana were much better and the federal government seemed to get most things right. Even so, there were areas where definite improvements are still needed.
It was quite obvious that FEMA was totally unprepared to deal with the aftermath of Katrina especially in the early stages. For days, it seemed that FEMA didn’t have a game plan and seemed totally lost. Based on everything I have seen and read, the agency needs a complete overhaul and we need to get rid of all of the “political hacks” who have been put in important positions. We must determine if putting FEMA under Homeland Security was a wise decision.
Clearly,we must first solve the immediate problems and then take a look back to find out where the real problems were and what needs to be done to correct them. I believe that an independent “Disaster Commission,” modeled after the 9/11 Commission, is needed to find out what all went wrong. We can’t afford to let the politicians from either party run this investigation. We need independent men and women, who are qualified and who have the experience and ability required to do this job. One thing is certain,we don’t need an early investigation that could be nothing more than a cover up of the government’s obvious shortcomings. We need a “Disaster Commission”and here’s why.
In my opinion, the 9/11 Commission is a good model for the “Disaster Commission.” It was independent, bipartisan and provided all Americans with an honest and frank assessment of what happened on September 11th. Clearly, support for a “Disaster Commission” is growing. It is absolutely urgent for Congress to establish such an independent commission and work to make America safe. Our next major disaster could be an earthquake, a river flood, a tornado, another hurricane, or even a massive terrorist attack. We must be prepared for any such event. I don’t really see the blame game that followed Katrina doing much to solve the obvious problem. It will take everybody working together to not only spot problems, but to solve them in the short term and then plan for future disasters. We simply can’t afford another Katrina type disaster.
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