To say that I am shocked would be a gross understatement. To say that I am surprised would not be true. To say that I am disgusted would perhaps best describe how I feel about the change in media policy toward covering REAL NEWS.
In a matter of three weeks, this country has been rocked by two major hurricanes along with a powerful tropical storm. Before this month is over, there will be storm lash the Carolina’s which will be as strong as most tropical storms. Before this month is over, there will be a hurricane of undetermined intensity strike either New York or New England. Where is the coverage of any of this in the news? It is not there.
The media has determined that they devoted enough time and space to Hurricane Ike coverage and have moved on to the greener pastures of the Washington economic bail out and the continuing fake news on the political front. Once most of Houston got their power back on and once the citizens of Galveston were allowed to at least see what became of their homes; the media figured their job was done and they were gone. The problem is that unless there remains a media presence, the American people quickly forget about a situation due their collective attention deficit disorder.
It seems the American public cannot focus on anything longer than a few hours. I would venture to say that the overwhelming majority of Americans have totally forgotten about Hurricane Gustov and are quickly forgetting about Ike. A few days removed from the front page and most stories are distant history.
The unfortunate reality when it comes to disaster relief is that the real work comes long after everyone things the work was all done. The tasks of repairing, rebuilding and restoring buildings and lives takes an enormous amount of time, work and money. Recovery from a major disaster entails far more than just pumping water out of a flooded basement or fixing a few shingles on the roof.
When I first visited New Orleans 8 months after Katrina hit one of the things that stood out most to me was the lack of retail businesses needed to repair, rebuild and restore. I made many trips to the one Home Depot that was open and waited in lines for upwards of two hours. There were few Wal-Mart’s and Targets open for months and even fewer grocery stores and restaurants. Part of the problem in New Orleans was the lack of people to work at these places.
If the majority of people in an area have had to leave due to major destruction, there of necessity will be a labor shortage for the few places trying to open. Another issue is where the evacuees are staying. If the area is demolished, they are not going to be staying in the area. They will be anywhere from a few miles to a continent away. Yet another problem is lack of reliable contractors and laborers to do the work.
Once debris removal is complete, the first thing that must be done to damaged homes and buildings is the removal of damaged drywall. The “gutting” out of structures is absolutely necessary to keep mold from taking over the dwelling. After Katrina, crews of volunteers from all over the United States descended on New Orleans and Mississippi just to gut all the structures which received water damage. When it comes to gutting, the need is volunteers and not supplies.
The next thing that must be addressed are the roofs. Immediately after a storm, blue tarps are put on damaged roofs to prevent moisture from getting in and ruining drywall and to prevent mold from growing. Logically, there is great need initially for roofing supplies and roofers. I am sure that there is a growing shortage of both supplies and workers in the roofing industry in Louisiana and Texas.
After roofs are fixed then, and only then, can the rebuilding stage start. It is utter folly to start repairs inside the house before the roof is repaired. Once the roof is finished, then a contractor must determine if the floor is ruined. Usually flooring is the next side of things to need supplies and workers. Notice how with each step of restoration the job becomes more expensive and labor intensive? Along with flooring comes electrical wiring and plumbing issues. Of course before all this are infrastructure needs that must be addressed.
Finally, after the roof, infrastructure, floors, electric and plumbing are done; then the time consuming and very expensive task of putting up new drywall starts. Even when that is done there remains the replacement of furniture, carpeting and drapes. The entire process of restoring a severely damaged building is very expensive and time consuming.
In the months and years after Katrina, there were constant shortages of building supplies that matched the progress being made. Initially there were shortages of lumber and roofing materials. Then there were shortages of flooring materials. Finally, the biggest shortage of all was drywall. Even once the literal shortages were relieved, there remained a dire shortage of qualified workers to do the work.
If the media had not kept the attention of America focused on Katrina for many months, there would not have been the continual outpouring of donated goods and volunteer services that continue unto this day. Yes, it has been three years since Katrina and there are still people either waiting for insurance money to get their home repaired or volunteer agencies to help when there was no money available.
The myths in disaster recovery are as follows:
1. Everyone has insurance and thus have the means to get repairs made
2. The area is flooded with reputable contractors and supplies
3. All the work is done and finished in a few weeks or months
4. Volunteers are only needed at the beginning of the relief effort
5. Donations of goods and money are only needed directly after the disaster
The great secret to success in disaster relief and recovery depends in part upon governmental agencies doing their part, private businesses doing their part and service groups and charities doing their part. It takes a team effort to see prompt and proper disaster relief, repair, rebuilding and restoration. The catalyst for this is constant media attention. It is truly a shame the media has chosen to leave the victims in Louisiana and Texas to fend for themselves.