Katrina: further incompetence

As the gross incompetence of the federal and local relief effort continues to become more apparent, another story of complete mismanagement has caught my eye.

A British traveller tells of his horrific experience in the New Orleans Superdome. His group called the British embassy in Washington from a mobile phone to ask for help, but embassy staff told them to contact the British consulate in New Orleans. When they pointed out it was “15ft under water”, the embassy staff simply repeated they should contact the consulate.

Incredible! Yet I am unsurprised. They are lucky they even got to speak to the embassy and were not forced to call a premium rate number routed through Ireland (as I had to when chasing down a passport that was 6 weeks late). Perhaps it is old-fashioned to imagine the embassy to come to your rescue. Those days are gone. The message to expats: the Americans won’t help you, nor will the Brits. You’re on your own.

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3 thoughts on “Katrina: further incompetence

  1. I am convinced, that relying on government to solve problems is NOT the way to go.. by the time they stop filling out paperwork in triplicate and debating it 3 times, it is too late… You have to take matters into your own hands.. Even the red-cross is screwing up.. really sad. The response to this disaster was a dismal failure, and I am even a Bush fan… Not that it is his fault, but that general on the ground in New Orleans is doing the best job of anyone.. he is getting things hopping.

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  2. I would love not to rely on the government when they stop making me pay taxes.Of course, the Red Cross itself is not claiming to be “screwing-up”:< HREF="http://www.redcross.org/faq/0,1096,0_682_4524,00.html#4524" REL="nofollow">They claim to be prevented from entering NO, for example<>. How exactly have they screwed-up?

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  3. shamelessly passed on from another website… we will see if this is snopes worthy…The Red Cross is all over the news with requests for donations, volunteers, and stories about how wonderful they are. Well folks – – it aint so!!!!!I just finished a 17 hours shift in a Red Cross shelter, though I am not with the Red Cross. This shelter housed around 750 evacuees, including ones from the Superdome. It was complete chaos. I was in a fairgrounds / coliseum type set up, with the beds set up in the coliseum and feeding set up in the expo hall. The Red Cross, with aoubt 12 workers, set up an office in the expo hall and sat around drinking coffee most of the time. They left me and my staff to manage/help the evacuees without any assistance or prior instruction. In fact, for many hours, the only way we could get information to pass on to evacuees was through the use of my personal cell phone and a local telephone book. The only substantive contribution Red Cross made was feeding people. I think the food distribution trucks were from Illinois or Indiana. Interestingly, the state sent me and my shift 120 miles from home to work in this shelter while one was opening across the street from my house – very efficient. Every once and a while a Red Cross person would come by and complain about how we were doing something. One ole bitty was constantly at it. I wound up watching this woman sit around and drink coffee for hours, only to occassionally come and complain. Interestingly, when FEMA came by several times, she is who they spent several hours talking to. One of the supervisors from my department came by to check on us after a confrence call and told us the Red Cross was dropping the ball all over the state.The Red Cross buracracy was unbelievable. The local newspaper informed people to make donations, volunteer, etc., at my location. People did so by the hundreds. The Red Cross had us turning donations away, because they wanted them sent to another location across town. We sent many donations away as instructed, but I don’t know of any supplies coming from the central location to help our people. In one case, I had to turn away a much needed pediatrician who came to help, because he hadn’t gone through the Red Cross Red Tape. Worse still, the Red Cross wanted us to turn people away from medical care and food unless they agreed to stay in the Red Cross shelter overnight – – BECAUSE THEY WOULDN’T GET REIMBURSED BY THE FEDS IF THE EVACUEES STAYED ELSWHERE!!!!! So much for making good use of donations. I guess they say screw the people who found other places to stay, but still needed medical care and food. There was no communication between shelters such as ours and the special needs shelter (across town) which was better equiped medically. I had cardiac patients dropped off at our door stil in hospital gowns and had mental health patients in crisis, but no way to get them assistance. Red Cross would not even answer the telephones they had. The Red Cross people in the OEP center wanted a head count every two hours, but I stopped calling them when they failed to take my calls. Private businesses, state workers, and the community were great. State offices such as food stamps were open 24/7, unemployment was open for 12 hour days, and businesses were coming in left and right to offer supplies. Many evacuees have already found apartments and jobs. Employers were posting notices looking for more workers. DMV was issuing new driver’s licenses free of charge. Social Security and the federal (i think) housing authority were naturally closed until Tuesday – no bending over backwards on their part. Walgreens helped people with prescriptions. The salvation army and local charities were helping with feeding and clothing (seperate from the Red Cross facility). Rumors abounded about things such as vouchers for clothes and supplies. Red Cross was not offering any type of vouchers nor was FEMA. The only way to contact FEMA was by telephone. There was no physical FEMA office. Our 750 evacuees had 3 telephone lines to use to contact FEMA. The phone company came in and quickly put about a dozen more lines in, but Red Cross could not provide any telephones to plug into them. People kept comming in saying they had been instructed to “register” with Red Cross, but they only “registration” we could do was to sign them up to stay in the shelter, which many declined. There was theft at our facility. Evacuees were given towels to use in the shower. When they asked for a second towel because they no longer had one, they were denied. For laundry, they were told to go across town to a laundry. Local police were great and provided a strong presence. There were steady convoys of military trucks heading to N.O. I passed at least 1 convoy of buses with evacuees heading North. I also past a number of Texas state troopers heading home after a stint of service. This post is probably rambling, but I am using it as a way to release some stress and simply vent. This was the most rewarding experience of my life, but one of the most heartbreaking and maddening as well. Your prayers for the evacuees are desperately needed. I would ask that you pray for one 12 year old girl who the police were looking for as I left. She was having “problems”and may have run away. She was one of the mental health patients without treatment or medication and for whom I could not locate help until after she went missing. I’m sure I will never know what happened, but it is weighing heavily on my mind. I am in NW Louisiana. We didn’t even get rain from the storm. The shelter I worked was in Central Louisiana – Alexandria, to be specific. Apparently that area has a large cluster of shelters. I base this on a map of shelters shown on television. Unfortunately, we did not have a list or map of shelters to give to people. People are literally driving around the state, shelter to shelter, looking for family. We only knew of 3 in the area, and there may actually be 20+. We just needed someone to tell us this stuff. The largest shelter in my town took in the roughest of the rough from the superdome. They were not searched for drugs, weapons, etc., and crime is reportedly high around the shelter. That shelter has about 1000 evacuees and is in the heart of our high crime area to boot. There were rumors of “planned” rioting and looting locally. A deputy sheriff also said the criminal element within the evacuee population is targeting women with children in Walmart parking lots – – robbery. Since I didn’t know what to expect on my trip, or on the way back home, I went well armed.BTW, all the staff in my agency are always “on call” for assisting in the response to disasters like this – primarily in setting up special needs shelters. We all watched the news and saw the storm comming, but the state never activated us. We all waited for the call over the weekend and it never came. Thus, I blame the Governor. I am also upset, if I didn’t mention it earlier, that my own agency has not offered some resourses because they worry it may not be reimbursed. They don’t want the agency budget to take a hit – – some folks priorities????!!!!!!Thanks again.

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