Friday, January 11, 2008

Tales Of Emergency Management

What follows is a list of complaints, observations, and a few words to people from surrounding communities who may be thinking about making the drive out on Saturday to help with clean-up. There is no order here, and it is based on a biased point-of-view, so if I do not include other sides, please remember - the only side that matters to me is my wife's, so PTHPTPTHTPT!!!!

First, while I realize this is a rural area, and that other people and homes were hit far worse than the Hall's and the Orchard, where the hell have Boone County Sheriff Deputies and the Illinois State Police been? It has been repeated over a couple nights that a business has been damaged, which is an invitation to looters. A member of Ken and Barb's family had to spend a very cold, very wet night in the collapsed apple barn to scare away looters the other night. One patrol car would have been sufficient to do the job. This is an emergency, so please don't give me happy crappy about budgets and the limits of resources.

Which brings me to my second complaint. Where the hell are state officials? I realize that our governor and state representatives and senators are busy beating each other up over funding for CTA, but you know what? Part of your job is also taking care of local concerns. Part of your constituency just disappeared in a natural disaster. Local Emergency Management needs help - including emergency funds - to do what is necessary. Even a photo-op at some of the destroyed homes, an indication that our local reps might actually care, would be nice. This is in your job description, and elections are coming, and I will remember your lack of action, even if no one else does.

Co-ordinating disaster relief is a bit of a contradiction in terms. There are competing agendas, competing egos, competing priorities, and competing incompetencies that create a disaster of their own that need to be relieved. My wife has done much, but never having done this before, she has made some mistakes, and more than a few people are annoyed (she readily admits all this; I told her that she is on a steep learning curve, and doing pretty well). It would seem to me that any outside agency, even if it is only the Boone County Emergency Management folks and the local chapter of the Red Cross, would be willing to work with those who are already on the ground, have been there since the beginning, know the people involved, etc. Instead, they both walk in with their sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory agendas, and demand to take over. If it weren't for the fact that real people are hurting, and need help, and the local OEM and Red Cross don't seem to have a clue as to how to help, I think my wife would have said, "Here you go." She didn't, and so there's been some head-butting, although that has lessened. There is no one, however, to calm these unruly children, and (to change the metaphor) herd these kittens in the way they need to do the job they're supposed to be doing.

Finally, I have heard that an "appeal for volunteers" went out for our clean-up day on Saturday. If you live in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, particularly the greater Chicago Metropolitan Area, and have been thinking about coming to help, while that is greatly appreciated - I will never say it isn't - we really don't need the extra hands. About 200 people are all it will take, and not a single volunteer will get within miles of Edward's Apple Orchard anyway; the road will be blocked, and volunteers will be bused to sites to help. If you are thinking you might just sneak out there anyway, forget about it - trespassing violators will be arrested. The Orchard has family and employees and insurance companies and all sorts of resources that other residents hurt far worse do not have, or have in limited supply. The news have focused on the Orchard; the disaster, in the shape of a weaving F-3 funnel cloud, did not. Please respect Ken and Barb Hall's fears for their property, which is also their livelihood, and stay away.

In case you didn't notice, I have not mentioned the federal government's response. I am hoping in the name of all that is Holy that they not even notice our little county and our (relatively small) disaster. Rockford has had severe floods twice in the past couple years, and the feds have not stepped up to the plate, except to have the Army Corps inspect local dams and tell them they're fine. Not a penny of relief - not even low-cost loans for rebuilding - came from federal coffers. With the current crew at FEMA, I would fear for the survival of all of Boone County should they show up. Please - stay away. The state, on the other hand, has been invisible, silent, and negligent. I realize that this is a largely Republican area in a state currently controlled by Democrats, but it might be nice to have a little action.

Anyway, I'm done here.

Virtual Tin Cup

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