Missing bus contracts?
September 4, 2005 7:56 AM   Subscribe

A cached google page says Loyola thought the city of New Orleans contracted with private companies for hurricane evacuation. Did I miss something? Where we these mysterious buses? From here and here.
posted by nospecialfx (15 comments total)
Storm Exposed Disarray at the Top
"The killer hurricane and flood that devastated the Gulf Coast last week exposed fatal weaknesses in a federal disaster response system retooled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to handle just such a cataclysmic event.

Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts.

...Born out of the confused and uncertain response to 9/11, the massive new Department of Homeland Security was charged with being ready the next time, whether the disaster was wrought by nature or terrorists. The department commanded huge resources as it prepared for deadly scenarios from an airborne anthrax attack to a biological attack with plague to a chlorine-tank explosion.

...If Hurricane Katrina represented a real-life rehearsal of sorts, the response suggested to many that the nation is not ready to handle a terrorist attack of similar dimensions. 'This is what the department was supposed to be all about,' said Clark Kent Ervin, DHS's former inspector general. "Instead, it obviously raises very serious, troubling questions about whether the government would be prepared if this were a terrorist attack. It's a devastating indictment of this department's performance four years after 9/11."

'We've had our first test, and we've failed miserably,' said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.), a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. 'We have spent billions of dollars in revenues to try to make our country safe, and we have not made nearly enough progress.' With Katrina, he noted that 'we had some time to prepare. When it's a nuclear, chemical or biological attack," there will be no warning.

Indeed, the warnings about New Orleans's vulnerability to post-hurricane flooding repeatedly circulated at the upper levels of the new bureaucracy, which had absorbed the old lead agency for disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among its two dozen fiefdoms. 'Beyond terrorism, this was the one event I was most concerned with always,' said Joe M. Allbaugh, the former Bush campaign manager who served as his first FEMA head.

But several current and former senior officials charged that those worries were never accorded top priority -- either by FEMA's management or their superiors in DHS. Even when officials held a practice run, as they did in an exercise dubbed 'Hurricane Pam' last year, they did not test for the worst-case scenario, rehearsing only what they would do if a Category 3 storm hit New Orleans, not the Category 4 power of Katrina. And after Pam, the planned follow-up study was never completed, according to a FEMA official involved." [Washington Post | September 4, 2005]
posted by ericb at 8:18 AM on September 4, 2005

Two full days before the storm hit, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security -- which takes primary and full responsibility for "providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort" -- were given direction and authority by way of a federal emergency declaration "to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
posted by ericb at 8:28 AM on September 4, 2005

Well, given that the DHS would allow the Red Cross into the city, much less 'commerical busses', I'm guessing that the plan could not be implemented as written. Maybe it's just me .....
posted by Ochiee at 8:50 AM on September 4, 2005

Not sure what the point of your 2nd comment is here, ericb. Wasn't that emergency declaration primarily intended to speed up the availability of money? It's difficult to imagine state officials standing by while FEMA stepped in *before* the storm to...what? Order mandatory evacuations?

Maybe next time that kind of thing will happen, but I doubt it would thrill any local official who's been watching this mess.
posted by mediareport at 8:53 AM on September 4, 2005

oh I'll show you where the buses are... Nagin should hang.

posted by TetrisKid at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2005

More on privatising disaster recovery: China Mieville catches “Innovative Emergency Management” trying to rewrite history.
Remember my earlier point that disaster management in New Orleans had been privatised, the ‘catastrophic hurricane disaster plan’ having been handed over to Baton Rouge-based Innovative Emergency Management last year? Watching this nightmare unfold, I’ve been wondering why no fucking one is asking what exactly IEM got paid for. It’s turning out to be very hard to find out, for rather startling reasons. In my first post on this, I quoted their original press release:
IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).”
Don’t bother trying the link to that release on the original post. It doesn’t work any more. Let me explain. If you go here now, you’ll see IEM’s page of press releases. Below is what it looked like at 3am on Friday 2nd September, a few minutes ago. … See the highlighted word? There used to be another press release, between May and July, dated June 3, announcing that ‘IEM Team to Develop Catastrophic Hurricane Disaster Plan for New Orleans & Southeast Louisiana’. That’s right. The evidence that hurricane-management was privatised and handed over to IEM has been eradicated from the IEM website. It’s almost as if someone was trying to evade responsibility for incompetence that’s resulted in the deaths of thousands, or something.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2005

"Well, given that the DHS would allow the Red Cross into the city, much less 'commerical busses', I'm guessing that the plan could not be implemented as written. Maybe it's just me ....."

Yeah, I think it's just you. This is a pre-hurricane evacuation plan, not an after-the-fact plan.
posted by nospecialfx at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2005

Wow. Damning photos, TetrisKid.

Those buses wouldn't have moved everyone, but they could should have moved some :-[
posted by login at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2005

I actually have more comments than just the loyola evacuation plan post. Check out the rest here.
posted by DetroitWonk at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2005

Holy shit, monju_bosatsu. Thanks for that.
posted by mediareport at 9:59 AM on September 4, 2005

Those buses wouldn't have moved everyone, but they could should have moved some :-[

I believe other buses were used:
"As many as 100,000 inner-city residents didn't have the means to leave, and an untold number of tourists were stranded by the closing of the airport. The city arranged buses to take people to 10 last-resort shelters, including the Superdome.

Nagin also dispatched police and firefighters to rouse people out with sirens and bullhorns, and even gave them the authority to commandeer vehicles to aid in the evacuation."
posted by Auz at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2005

Just because you have buses doesn't mean you have drivers for them, especially during a manditory evacuation. Even the regular transit workers shut down all routes by 3pm the day before the storm hit.

The airports and greyhounds all stopped running early in the day. The trolley system didn't run at all on the day before the hurricane.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:51 AM on September 4, 2005

That said, buses were running regularly throughout the last day, ferrying people into the Superdome. If the Superdome had been promptly evacuated by FEMA, then I suspect we might be questioning the wisdom now of those who didn't go there when told to do so.

It's really hard to second guess the response of the city, especially since many of its own employees fled the storm with their families, whether they were supposed to come in and help or not.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2005

/off topic

(San Francisco...trolley. New Orleans...street car. If you want to present yourself as knowledgeable about the area the correct terminology helps.)
posted by justgary at 11:03 AM on September 4, 2005

Nagin should hang.

Our own ColdChef said Oh, and also, as far as evacuations go, this is probably the smoothest and most well organized evac that New Orleans has ever seen. I don't know if he still thinks that, though.

Later, he said: While it is true that there was no clear plan of evacuation (at least to the everyday citizens of New Orleans), on-the-fly plans involving buses and the Superdome fell into place quickly. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful, clear days and even though police drove around with bullhorns, begging people to at least head for higher ground, many people never even attempted to evacuate or seek shelter.... I know people involved in the evacuation effort and NO ONE was denied help if they asked for it. So, yes, while the plans were lacking and they relied heavily on self-preservation, there were alternatives. Alternatives that were, for whatever reason, ignored.

There certainly were some residents removed by bus. And indeed, ColdChef again: The local nursing home was taking elderly refugees from New Orleans and they needed help unloading them when they got there.... Five large tourbuses from New Orleans showed up with at least fifty patients on each. For the next four hours we carried these old folks off the buses, put them into wheelchairs and brought them inside.

So it seems clear that buses were used to bring nursing home residents out of town, and buses were also used to bring residents to the Superdome. Some sort of bus evacuation plan, in other words, was in place and used. Whether the buses that are in the image TetrisKid posted were part of that evacuation plan is unknown and unproven. Whether they should have been is a different question.

Sorry, ColdChef, for bringing you into this, but you were our man on the scene.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 AM on September 4, 2005

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