This just in–There is water available and soon supplies in Liverpool-30 miles from Galveston!
Sometimes I just want to scream. While hundreds of thousands of people are cooped up like animals in shelters, are fighting to survive in homes blasted by surging waters, are huddled in damaged houses with no electricity, food or water; who do the reporters find to interview? Someone who wants a beer and a paper to read. Someone at an apartment complex drinking wine, beer and eating beef stew. Hey, there are thousands who would love to have one bite of your stew right now.
Once again, the Federal Government has proven how totally inept it is at usurping things done far better by the private sector. There used to be a damn good disaster relief and recovery system in place in this country which could mobilize in record time and have access to the giving hearts of loving people all over the country who wanted to help.
It used to be, if some guy in Kentucky or Missouri wanted to round up supplies, rent a truck and head for a major disaster to deliver goods where needed they could with no governmental interference. That was before FEMA and the individual states versions (TEMA, LEMA, MEMA, etc.) hijacked the disaster relief efforts and took over not only search and rescue operations but the distribution of supplies and volunteers as well.
I have sat in planning meetings where the new National Disaster Response Plan was discussed and presented. No private sector group liked the changes. Even groups such as the American Red Cross have been relegated to second or even third place in the order of agencies allowed to take care of victims. It used to be they were in first place. Who replaced them? FEMA of course.
A few years ago a group was started out of Dallas called AID MATRIX. Over the past three or four years, this group has risen to the point it now pretty much acts as the clearing house for all disaster relief supplies, money and volunteers for every major charity that helps during an event such as Ike. This sounds good, but as usual, the end results do not match the hype.
Governors in various states now have funds set up to handle donations earmarked for their state. The National Association—VOAD (Volunteers Organized Assisting in Disasters) now has full control over the volunteers at a disaster site. The days of an independent group or person unaffiliated with any VOAD group being able to assist in a major disaster have pretty much ended. The Achilles Heel to all huge charities assisting in disasters are the dreaded “unaffiliated volunteers and supplies”.
After Hurricane Katrina, there was a spontaneous outpouring of compassion in this country. Semi Trucks were filled with clothing, water, food and other supplies at churches and other service oriented facilities nationwide. In record time these trucks, driven by volunteers who donated their time, trucks and fuel arrived near the Gulf Coast only to be stopped and turned away. Frustration reached the boiling point as some of these truckers sat in a state of limbo for days or were run in circles trying to find a place to drop their loads.
Partially through dangerous conditions at the disaster sites, and partially through pride and arrogance; the spontaneous love offerings of America were turned down and treated as second rate gifts compared to the fine things FEMA and State agencies could provide. In due time the outcry of Americans finally produced independent warehouses, free from government dictates, which took these truckloads of supplies and then distributed them to small groups working directly with the people who had lost everything.
Now what do we have three years later? We have FEMA and individual state’s versions of FEMA doing everything themselves for the most part. Private groups trying to get feeding stations and other things into the disaster areas are in limbo. FEMA wants to run the whole operation to prove “How Great they Art”. After the Katrina fiasco, FEMA wants to prove to everyone they can handle disaster relief far better than the Baptists, the Salvation Army or even the Red Cross.
I sat in a meeing two years ago where it was stated that in the event of another disaster such as Katrina, the rest areas on the Interstates would be used as road blocks to stop every truck trying to get supplies to the disaster site. Unless the truck driver had a manifest detailing everything on his truck and the group it was going to was recognized by FEMA/VOAD as a legitimate group—the truck would be forced to turn around and go home.
The scary part came when someone asked what would happen if the truck ran the roadblock and tried to deliver the supplies anyway. The answer was that those manning the check point would have orders to “shoot to kill” and otherwise do whatever it took to stop such a truck from getting to the disaster site.
Such regulations may appear to be a good idea due to the confusion and debris at the site. But, come on, this is America; land of the free. Yea sure, we are not even free anymore to deliver needed supplies to a group of storm victims starving and dying of thirst. Don’t believe me? Just dig a little deeper and look at what is happening in Galveston right now. Want more proof? Dig even deeper and find out NOTHING is being done for thousands of stranded people in Louisiana who were hit by GUSTOV over two weeks ago.
I refer you to the following blog if you want to help and don’t want to throw you money or supplies to the bureaucratic big agencies . If you want your generosity to reach the people in need, you need to go through one of the few remaining independent groups with the commitment to do whatever it takes to get supplies to those who need them the most in record time and will be the backbone of support in the long road to recovery.