Your e-mails: Government after Katrina
CNN.com readers' ideas for state and local disaster response
(CNN) -- CNN.com asked readers what suggestions they had for improved local response to emergencies. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
For starters, I would like to see at least on the county level a means of backup emergency communications systems. My vision is to be equipped with satellite phones and a satellite Internet system connected to a generator. This way, if there was ever an event where you lost all power, you would be able to contact the outside world. The satellite phones would be a quick way to communicate your situation to the state and federal agencies. The satellite Internet system would allow local officials to send and receive e-mails to state and federal agencies and you would be able to retain these e-mails.
We have structure in our government. What we don't have are informed people. If the governor and mayor had implemented the emergency plans, prior to and after the disaster, New Orleans' people would be in much better shape. Many would still be alive. Their local and state government let them down. This is not a federal issue! People needed to help themselves and not sit and wait for the federal government to rescue them. That is done on a local level.
As a displaced New Orleans resident and Tulane social work grad student, I had ample opportunity to see how ineffectual the local government was in dealing with the day-to-day operations of the city, much less the hurricane and levee disasters. Now that the damage has been done by Mother Nature, the local and state governments have the unique opportunity to break out of the blatant nepotism and near-sightedness that has ruled Louisiana and New Orleans politics for years. Ordinary citizens who volunteer should be included on any rebuilding committees-and the city and state should actively solicit their input. Persons from all walks of life should have a say in how the city is rebuilt. The privileged few should not have total control over the fate of the many. It's time for Louisiana politicians and officials to stop catering to the "old boys" club and join the 21st century.
I believe each county has a director for emergency response; these individuals could make up the backbone of the new organization. A presidential decree could, most likely, make all law enforcement and emergency responders, as well as officials with decision-making power in regard to the allocation of resources, such as county school bus fleets, county and city construction equipment, power line and cable crews, and local forest fire fighting equipment, ... part of ... a new Civil Defense Department under Homeland Security. All of these people could have this assignment as a collateral duty, it merely being part of the responsibilities they already have because of their current positions.
Definitely local and state governments should handle preparation. In the case of Katrina, the local and state authorities had four full days to prepare and evacuate (see Florida), they did not. The local authorities should be in a better position to know the needs of their citizens, not the feds! Nagin and Blanco are to blame for what happened in New Orleans. The federal government cannot be expected to handle everything. That's why states were considered sovereign.
I think the government in New Orleans should rebuild the levees using better material that will hold up under a storm surge. I also think if they had an evacuation plan in place, with routes out of the city better detailed, with maps set out at every conceivable place, even the homes of residents, there may have been more lives saved. I think the U.S. government should make this mandatory and work hand-in-hand with all governments, starting from the president all the way down to the mayors. The lack of response was very bad; this never should have happened. I do not think any one government was to blame, all were slow to respond. This was a catastrophe that could have been prevented, if they had just planned ahead.
Since 911, Homeland Security's creation was an appropriate response. This is a very different world from that of ten years ago. Homeland Security now has to encompass terrorism, natural disasters and pandemics. This is an awfully wide spectrum of responsibility. State and local governments need to be accountable and and effective "first responder" partners and politicians at all levels need to roll up their sleeves to help, not point fingers of blame. Organization is critical and key to immediate response. If you want effective results, you need appropriate design. Hire a relational database management team to design the appropriate structures and responsible relationships required for effective response. After all, they do it every day in the private sector with great efficiency and effectiveness.
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