Snowballed Effect and Lessons Learned
I apologize for the long absense. I was overwhelm with family and work, both are priorties before blogging. As I was absensed from the blogosphere, Katrina hit. So here are a few disconnected points about Katrina.
- Snowballing Effect: The first failure compounded exponentially the effect of the succeeding failures. Despite the fact that all levels of US government look pathetic in the aftermath of Katrina; the failure of the City of New Orlean is most note worthy because it worsens the failure of the next echelon. By the time the Federal Government fail to act, the effect became catastrophic. It is important to put the City of New Orlean into context. Just put Katrina in term of military operation and thing became clear. The City of New Orlean is the first line of defense, the first responder. In military term, it would be the first unit on the front line. It is responsible to hold the line at all cost, until the enemy overwhelm the line. If the enemies break through this line, the second line of defense is activated. In this case, it is the State Government. The Reserve is the last line of defense (the Federal Government), to call in when the second line of defense is breached. During Katrina, the first line of defense capitulated, dropped their weapons, and fled without a fight. This reduced the neccessary time for the second line of defense (the State) to react to the onslaught of the enemies. This was then compounded by the slow response of the second line, so the the second line quickly folded. The Reserve was then slow to react, unawared that the first and second lines have fallen. By the time the situation is realized, the enemies have breach the wall of the city and in the process of sacking it. The lesson is that it is important to shore up the first line. Both the State and the Federal Government should have inspected the state of prepareness of their respective lower echelon.
- Follows the plan: Have a plan and follow it. Captain Quarter reports that New Orlean has a plan for this scenario. The plan looks good and addresses many of the problem faced on the first few days of the crisis. Except that they did not follow it. Had they follow their own plan, many more lives would have been saved. Perhap the plan was simply written to satisfy State and Federal requirement and no ranking official in the city actually read it. It is important to have everyone of responsibility to read through the plan, have everyone involve in the plan go through a rehearsal (at least simulates it on computer). And most important designate a person who knows the plan to be in charge of all activities during crisis. Establish a chain of command so that if the designated person is killed or unavailable.
- Private Citizens Are Assets Not Liabilities: Earlier on the crisis, the government announced that private citizens should not to come to the affected area to help, because they would get in the way. We later learned that private charities and individuals were faster, more responsive, and far more effective than the government. Disobeying government order, they came. And because they came, many lives were saved. Private charities were the first to get to the affected area. Their effectiveness was impressive. As the government was deciding what to do; trucks full of food, water, and relief material were arriving in massive quantity from private humanitarian organizations. Before any government official arrived, volunteers were already in the area providing relief. The government was wrong to bar private citizens from rescuing their fellow citizens. The forgotten lesson of September 11th is that citizen volunteers played a key role on the first week. Most the rescuing effort at ground zero was done by volunteers. They digged through the rubbles, they took care of the wounded, they saved lives. They organized themselves without the government and they were better organized. It is time that the Bush administration (who are big government conservatives) to recognize this fact.