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Wake Up in the South

by Reason McLucus

This essay may be republished on other websites or in print publications.

The recent debacle in New Orleans demonstrates the need to change the way hurricane prone states approach major hurricanes.

Hurricanes are a fact of life for Gulf coast states and Atlantic coast states just like tornadoes are a fact of life in Kansas and earthquakes in California. There are two differences. Hurricanes can cover a much bigger area and they provide an advance warning unlike tornadoes and earthquakes which hit without significant warning.

Response to tornadoes and earthquakes can only come after the fact. Hurricanes allow time to to get out of the way and to prepare to respond to damaged areas.

The evidence from Katrina is that the current system for responding to hurricanes isn’t working. The current system of civilian agencies isn’t working. Typically the National Guard must be called in for disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. Only the National Guard can provide the extra manpower needed. Thus it would make sense to have the National Guard assume control of efforts to prepare for hurricanes and deal with the damage afterward.

A regional National Guard command for hurricane response should be established for hurricane prone states, particularly the southern states. The Officer in Charge would be responsible for establishing procedures for responding to hurricanes, training programs and coordination of regional response. Requests for regular federal troops would pass through this command.

Each state would have a commander for hurricane response who would adjust procedures for the needs of the particular state and have control of response efforts. In the event of a multi-state hurricane, the senior commander would coordinate the actions of the different states.

National Guard units in each state would conduct a hurricane mobilization drill as a weekend drill prior to the start of hurricane season. Units would travel to the areas most susceptible to hurricane damage to familiarize themselves with the area and let emergency service workers and residents know what would happen in the event of a hurricane, especially a major hurricane.

Military personnel are the best qualified to deal with hurricane evacuation and relief efforts. The military is the only government agency with training and experience in moving people and commodities in .large numbers. The military has experience responding quickly to construction related engineering situations including rapid bridge construction and road clearing as well as dealing with large numbers of casualties. Only the armed services have extra personnel who can be called on quickly in emergencies.

Governors would have nominal control of the National Guard in their states, but the National Guard Commander could use the military chain of command to request the President to take control of relief efforts in the event that civilian government hampered relief efforts.



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