Friday, September 23, 2005

Go to the Audiotape

NPR notes that Walter Maestri, emergency manager for Jefferson Parish, recorded a number of conference calls before and after Hurricane Katrina hit the region:

In tapes of the disaster planning meetings, emergency managers and civic officials evinced a growing concern with the strengthening hurricane's possible effects -- and after the storm made landfall, a growing frustration with the aid effort mounted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As emergency preparations gave way to coordinated actions and pleas for equipment, the recorded calls depict an emergency command center in Baton Rouge that became a center of frenzied activity.

As late as Saturday morning -- 48 hours before the storm struck -- officials were debating how best to handle an evacuation. At one point, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans brought up a troubling issue: If community leaders simultaneously told residents to leave, gridlock could result.

Throughout the weekend, local officials continued in their plans to open disaster shelters. In detailed plans drawn up several years ago, state and federal governments agreed on the need for a network of "special needs" shelters, with emergency generators that could power medical equipment. But in a series of phone calls, officials complained they couldn't find the generators they needed.

Dozens of key officials from state and federal agencies spoke with local counterparts like Walter Maestri, of Jefferson Parish, a large suburb of New Orleans hit hard by the storm surge and the flooding that followed.

Oh, and from Eschaton, here's a story that should put to rest any notion that somehow the private sector is "more efficient" than government...a notion that should be as dead as Ronald Reagan.

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