Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Facing the Storm

A storm is hovering off the coast of North Carolina and reminding me that danger still lurks just beyond the horizon. I thought about the storm as I faced the gray morning commute to the office. I considered the dangers and our response to the disaster along the Gulf Coast as I listened to NPR. Health care teams from across the country were discussing what went wrong. Government officials insisted that relief workers had what they needed to do their jobs, but I suspect that as these doctors and nurses return home and write their reports we are going to learn a lot about what they did not have. I expect we are going to see a pattern in those reports.

The government wanted paperwork from people who had no access to fax machines. The relief planes couldn't land because there were no lights on the runways. In short - technology failed and we were so dependent upon our machines that we could not do the job without them.

We are a high tech society facing an old and very low-tech situation, a natural disaster. Our response is inadequate because we are losing the skill set to deal with the world beyond our gadgets. Before we face the next storm we need to reacquaint rescue workers with old-fashioned skills children used to learn from parents and scout leaders. We can and must set up systems that are not dependent upon the phones and fax lines staying in tact. We must prepare for the lights going out before they go out.

In case you haven't thought about it...that means we need to get over the notion of outsourcing government responsibility to private contractors and charities. I am not saying we should not open our checkbooks to charities, but we cannot place the responsibility for this kind of relief in the hands of any charitable organization. They are not accountable to the citizens or obligated to do particular things in the event of an emergency. Government in recent years has placed too much dependence upon private charity for the preservation of our public trust. It is time for government to shoulder the responsibility as part and parcel of their duty to the citizenry. Charity is good but it is not a replacement for professional disaster relief organizations with the authority to get the job done.


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