For its part, the local government departed - big time - from the federal government's guidance and did nothing to reinforce that message until less than 1 day before landfall. At that time, the local government gave a half-hearted mandatory evacuation, but also included places called "refuges of last resort", like the Superdome. 'Oh yeah', they said, 'bring your own food and water since the Dome was never intended to be a shelter in the first place.' Duh. Then they had just a few hours to find the keys to go open up the Superdome in time to start sheltering all the people that did not heed any other substantive and informed evacuation warnings.
There were at least 60,000 people of them and over 1000 of them needlessly paid with their lives. The rest were forcibly displaced while the world watched.
2007 - Wildfire evacuation warnings were spread throughout the affected regions all up and down the west coast. Many left their homes before the fire reached them and saved themselves in the process. Some did not and perished after being engulfed in flames. Flames that systematically and predictably marched their way to them ... and they did little to get out of the way. San Diego officials also deployed a reverse 911 system that repeatedly called everyone in the affected areas with consistent alerts and demands to evacuate. Hello? Can you hear me now?
2008 - Disaster warnings spread throughout the Southeast for three (3) days prior as the destructive storm cells developed. Over 1000 warnings were issued. Take cover in a suitable shelter they were told. Yet, one aftermath story told of a victim who was fatally wounded while sitting - to begin with anyway - in his mobile home, which was not even strapped to the ground. How old do you have to be to understand what 3 days notice, 1000 warnings and a fabricated house with a long history of becoming a projectile mean before you un-ass your mobile home and find a real, suitable shelter?
Oh really? Virtually every region affected had an early warning system in place - and it was used. And the stories - and my point - were not about the unsuspecting victims, but about folks who were duly warned but still chose to do nothing about it. As a result, their families are mourning them today. Was that re-run, chicken pot-pie or whatever that kept them on the sofa really worth it? Huh?
And so I am calling them out. Perhaps the media and others should stop glorifying their dying acts as heroic and start calling attention to the folly of their choice instead. That way, perhaps future victims might actually start absorbing some of that precious institutional knowledge and break the cycle of stupidity.
As bi-peds, we have put men on the moon, made phones that talk without wires and made pizza that gets a crust when cooked in a microwave. As a society - as an institution - we have learned that mean people suck, good health is, well, good and that steroids will get you banned from nearly every sport ever played.
So why can't we - as an institution - learn that the Hurricane Katrina victims died from the same results of poor judgment as many of the victims in the Southern California wildfires and many of the victims in Tuesday's Southeastern Tornadoes?
[If you know someone who tends to like re-runs and pot-pie more than safety, then please click the email icon below to forward this post to them. Or, subscribe to the Feed at the right, and forward the feed to them. They need all the help they can get.]