Thursday, May 17, 2007

More On Lessons Learned

Louisiana and New Orleans are most certainly serious about making changes to their disaster response and recovery plans after Katrina. They deserve accolades for many efforts. For example, the Unified New Orleans Plan was extensively revised after the initial version was universally panned. The new version was recently released, with strong support for the changes:

"Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, which had issued a scathing review of the original plan, said the revised version is "much more lucid" and easier to read, but she said it still leaves several important issues unclear, such as how much of the city would be covered by new zoning."

In addition, they've got back and re-solicted for bids from bus companies for a new public evacuation system for those who cannot evacuate themselves, rather than taking the only previous bid- which was over 4 times higher than expected. Officials seem to have realized that such wasteful and inefficient spending will not be tolerated any longer, and have taken a risk to re-solicit bids instead of accepting the only one offered. Officials are smart and gutsy to ask fairer prices from contracting companies who are used to dealing with government bodies (seemingly) unconcerned about cost levels. I expect they'll get them.

At the same time, however, not everything is going well. One wonders why the public bus evacuation system received only two bids the first time- one which was withdrawn, and the other of which was far too high. Are too many buses being demanded? Couldn't multiple companies bid for parts of the contract rather than relying on one company exclusively? And why is it that "on the chance that the system becomes overloaded, the state Department of Education has agreed to provide yellow school buses, many with drivers," rather than using those buses first instead of spending more taxpayer dollars? Kids won't be going to school during an evacuation, so school buses should be available... these are mostly unanswered questions rather than major problems. One major problem, though, is that Louisiana is 140,000 beds short of its needs during an evacuation. While that is short of the estimate needed for the worst-case scenario, it is a seriously large number- more than half of the total estimated need.

Plenty of work done on lessons learned, and more to be done- just like on the houses. I built railings for a wooden stoop today with help from a couple of high school kids.

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