Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How Preventable was the Katrina Catastrophe?

One year after the massive failures around Katrina, this is still worth looking at.

According to investigative reporter Greg Palast--who has broken some of the most important stories of the past few years--responsibility to develop, duplicate, distribute, and execute an evacuation plan for New Orleans rested with a shadowy, and inexperienced, firm called Innovative Emergency Management (IEM). Palast claims IEM's major "qualification" is a solid track record of donations to Republican causes. He says this company cannot produce even a single copy of the plan that should have been in place, even though a core part of using such a plan is widely disseminate it to all the fire stations, hospitals, police unites, etc.

There was, however, a draft plan--that utterly failed to recognize that 127,000 New Orleaneans didn't have a car. Never mind that the highways were largely unusable between traffic jams and flooding.

Now--here's the really sad part: Dr. Ivor van Heerden, Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, warned FEMA ahead of time. Not only did he point out the large number of carless residents, he also mapped out exactly where these folks lived. And he predicted to FEMA and to the White House that the levees would be too short.

What thanks did he get? Here's Palast:

Dr. van Heerden offered this life-saving info to FEMA. They wouldn't touch it. Then, a state official told him to shut up, back off or there would be consequences for van Heerden's position. This official now works for IEM.

So I asked him what happened as a result of making no plans for those without wheels, a lot of them elderly and most of them poor.

"Fifteen-hundred of them drowned."

A bit later in the article:

Van Heerden astonished me with the most serious charge of all. While showing me huge maps of the flooding, he told me the White House had withheld the information that, in fact, the levees were about to burst and by Tuesday at dawn the city, and more than a thousand people, would drown.

Van Heerden said, "FEMA knew on Monday at 11 o'clock that the levees had breached… They took video. By midnight on Monday the White House knew. But none of us knew

Oh, and to top the whole thing off, guess who the Bush administration chose to investigate the failed evacuation plan--IEM! It's worse that putting the fox to guard the henhouse.


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