Sunday, September 11, 2005

Florida's Experienced People Speak

OK, so how about a critique from people who REALLY know hurricanes?

A couple of 'money quotes:'

"...the head of Florida AHCA and the head of Florida wildlife (which is responsible for all search and rescue) all said they made offers of aid to Mississippi and Louisiana the day before Katrina hit but were rebuffed. After the storm, they said they've had to not only help provide people to those states but also have had to develop search and rescue plans for them. "They were completely unprepared -- as bad off as we were before Andrew," one Florida official said.

And how Louisiana and Mississippi officials have handled Hurricane Katrina is a far cry from what emergency managers here would have done. Mississippi was in the middle of rewriting its disaster plan when Katrina struck. Officials there were still analyzing what went wrong during Hurricane Dennis earlier this year when Katrina overtook them. Search teams from Florida were rescuing Mississippi victims before law enforcement officers there were even aware of the magnitude of the disaster.

Louisiana also lacked an adequate plan to evacuate New Orleans, despite years of research that predicted a disaster equal to or worse than Katrina. Even after a disaster test run last year exposed weaknesses in evacuation and recovery, officials failed to come up with solutions.

And this:

"Search and rescue crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were poised in Pensacola on Sunday night in anticipation of Katrina's landfall Monday.
After scouting the Panhandle and determining it was OK Monday morning, Jones said she called Mississippi officials to see if they needed help.

"They said, 'We don't know,' " she said. "Monday night, Mississippi said 'We still have not been able to evaluate the damage, so please go.' So Monday night, we were at the border ready to go, and we were in Mississippi by 6 a.m. Tuesday. So before Mississippi could wake up and say, 'OK, we have to start doing assessments,' Florida was in those two counties, in Jackson and Harrison."

Jones' crews made the first rescue in Mississippi at dawn the day after Katrina made landfall, and they spent a week in the area, ferrying Mississippi Marine Patrol officers whose vessels were destroyed by Katrina.

One wonders why the Louisiana and Mississippi Emergency Ops people had not made it a point to contact the Florida people long ago to find out How It Is Done.

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