Saturday, February 6, 2010

Russel Honore has a book about disaster survival

I watched Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (United States Army, now retired) on CNN commenting on the events of the earthquake in Haiti. I had taken great notice of his effectiveness during Hurricane Katrina; while I was watching the activities in Haiti that did, and did not, take place to help those suffering...I wondered why Honore was not put in charge of solving any problems THEY had.

As I looked around on the internet for information about his work in New Orleans, I found his website (http://generalhonore.com) and found that he has written "SURVIVAL: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save Youand Your Family From Disasters"...he was kind enough to have a copy sent to me.

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In the prologue he states: "...Louisiana disaster response was the province of Lieutenant General Robert Clark, commander of U.S. Fifth Army in San Antonio, Texas...I was...not as familiar with the state or the city..."

As thankful as I am that Honore was sent, I now have questions for his superiors: why was Clark not sent?

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In the first chapter, he recounts his entry into to aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. And, sets the foundation to understanding the limits of his authority in this manner.

This book needs to be read to try to understand why someone...anyone...did not come into New Orleans, kick-ass, and get the job done: overall, it's not "legal" to do so. Residents of Louisiana (and other states) need to understand laws that relate to them, and the relationship betweeen the federal government and the states: "There is a National Response Framework...There is no National Preparedness Plan for disasters."

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At the beginning of Chapter 7, he states:

"...The myth about federal government failing to prepare for Katrina just does not pass muster.

"...not Bush or FEMA officials or me or the First Army staff--fully realized the destructive power contained in that huge mass of swirling winds...

"...we had to wait for the governor to make the request of FEMA, which then had to send the request to the Department of Defense...

"...the lead agencies for those sorts of things...come from the affected states..."

If you take a very close look at why certain types of assistance to Haiti was not provided as fast as some expected, it's for the same reason: Haiti has a government that must authorize the actions of others. Beaurocracies have their benefits...and their disadvantages.

The PBS program NewsHour considered the military's roles in disasters...


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In chapter 8, it struck me as funny (though not REALLY funny) that the Transportation Security Adminstration wanted to be able to screen people before they were allowed on planes to be evacuated from New Orleans...it appears that, in general, people were being screened as they were being evacuated from the area (and I suspect that some may have been taken into custody).

In the book, Honore states that when he wanted to speak with FEMA director Mike Brown, Honore was told that Brown was out to dinner and unavailable. (Go ahead...throw something. Preferably at "Brownie"...)

As I read this chapter I am reminded of my belief that we need more amateur radio operators. I have always wanted to be one but, due to time lack of money, never been able to get the license.

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He discusses expectations of what could, and should, have been done. And which agencies (local/state/federal) could, and should, have done it. And which agency can, and cannot, by law. And is, and is not, trained for certain services. Many (including me) expected the federal government to step in and "save everyone". Had they done that, it could have cause the federal government to become completely and totally responsible for that action, and any issues (good and bad) caused by doing so.

Everyone (local/state/federal) has a part to play, and needs to play their position. It was the responsibility of the state of Lousiana to oversee and handle the Katrina situation...and if they could not, then ask for assistance from the federal government. So, at times, I guess being angry with the federal government can be too easy to do: I/we expect them to perform miracles...and therefore sometimes they can be the large, visible target.

And Honore reminds us that we are our own responsibility: don't expect the government...ANY government...to provide for us, and to protect us. If we do, we get what we get. If we get anything at all...

Page 196: "...being proactive can be an expensive proposition and state and local governments generally will not spend the money necessary to do it..."

In addition, throughout the book he reminds us that there are a lot of services that are not under the direct control of the agencies that is responsible to provide them: emergency drinking water is not stocked by government agencies, but contracted from companies...communications services are provided by companies to government, AND MILITARY, departments (if they have been paid for)...businesses that provide services to transport supplies may not be "open" when they are needed...

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At the end of each chapter there is a list of "Lessons Learned" (they don't appear to be related to what has been presented in the chapter).

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Buy this book for: your state/county/local representatives...state/local police...I believe anyone could benefit from the information in this book.


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