Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Wildfires Cont'd

I've been hearing a lot about how much better the federal response to the wildfires has been compared to Hurricane Katrina. Yes, it would appear FEMA and the administration got it right for once, but perhaps we shouldn't be patting the President and his men on his back just yet.

There are big differences between Louisiana and California locally that must be looked at.

First, if any state in the union is prepared for a natural disaster, it's California. The Golden State lives everyday with the risk of earthquakes, mudslides, flash floods, wildfires, tidal waves, volcano eruptions and on and on. California also has their wealth behind them. They can afford to implement a major disaster plan, and they have to be prepared because they are constantly at the mercy of mother nature.

Second, the people of San Diego have certain luxuries, for lack of better word, in this disaster. For one thing, the city is still intact. New Orleans essentially ceased to exist. The entire city was underwater and left devestated. The city's buearcracy, already notably unreliable, was left stagnated. The fire department and police department could not function. The Governor could not get the people out of the Superdome. The people in New Orleans were left stranded and the local governments were left in shambles and unable to lead. This is where the federal government SHOULD have stepped in, but did not, leaving anarchy.

The people of Southern California also have means to get out. Many, specifically in New Orleans, had no car or means of transportation to get out. San Diegans, for the most part, have cars and trucks, as life without a car in California is pretty impossible. The evacuees in Qualcomm Stadium have electricity, food, and running water, all of which was missing from the Superdome in New Orleans. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how to get supplies to the stadium. Unlike New Orleans, the roads are passable and the airport is open.

Third, and while this is theory, I believe it has teeth, San Diego may have learned a lesson we all learned after Katrina; help yourself because we don't know when the Feds are coming. It was the people of San Diego, those unaffected by the fires, who appeared at Qualcomm Stadium first to volunteer and help. It was the locals who decided not to wait for a government that has proven to lack leadership when it comes to responding to disaster. Andy Konradt writes this on The Huffington Post;

It's nice to see that even if FEMA had decided to sit on its thumbs for three days before stepping foot over here, the residents of San Diego decided to take care of themselves.

Thankfully FEMA didn't sit on it's thumbs for three days, but San Diego and California learned the lesson from Louisiana...the Feds tend to be incompetent with this stuff, so let's take care of ourselves and if they respond competently, then excellent. Louisiana and Mississippi did not have the luxury of having a certain group of locals left unaffected. Hurricane Katrina effected everyone on the coast, these fires directly effected some people and not others. Governor Schwarzeneggar, Mayor Sanders and the local government and authorities are the ones who responded effectively. Thankfully FEMA and the Federal Government didn't have to prove to be competent, Californians already beat them to it.

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