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Hurricane Katrina: Total System Failure

September 5th, 2005 by Hans Bjordahl :: see related comic

Hurricane Katrina was not one disaster. It was two disasters:

1) A Category 4 hurricane devastating large portions of three states, including a major American city.

2) The federal government’s total system failure in addressing a catastrophe that had been foreseen as a near-certainty for days, and as a possibility for decades.

And make no mistake: The second disaster killed many, many Americans who managed to survive the first. Perhaps thousands of Americans.

I think what’s most enraging is that EVEN NOW, as of this writing, a FULL WEEK AFTER THE STORM, the federal government has yet to reboot. EVEN NOW, crucial resources sit unused because someone forgot to fill out the right “Hurricane Catastrophe 302X-ZR1″ form in triplicate to FEMA. EVEN NOW, the President spends his time and resources in New Orleans staging a FAKE LEVEE REPAIR for a photo op. EVEN NOW, government officials are publicly congratulating themselves on a job well done, often by just holding a press conference and spinning BALD-FACED LIES about their efforts.

This is what happens when you hire cronies instead of experts — when the time comes to actually do their jobs, they scatter like cockroaches after the lights have been flipped on.

This isn’t a partisan issue — I have friends across the political spectrum appalled by the disasters of New Orleans. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be? It’s an issue of basic competence. It’s an issue of leadership. You know what would happen to any programmer, tester, manager or CEO implicated in a fiasco of this nature?

They’d be fired.

11 Responses to “Hurricane Katrina: Total System Failure”
Sheldon Lavine wrote:

To be fair, some of the blame has to be placed on the City and State Governments, and the kind of people who shoot at resuce workers and contractors:

“New Orleans Police Kill 4 in Shootout”
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/05/national/nationalspecial/05bridge.html

.. and the people who made it so awful to stay at the Superdome.

Scott wrote:

Even the President has said that the response of his administration was unacceptable, but people *have been* working around the clock to help out the people affected by the disaster.

An evacuation warning had been issued, and people knew the hurricane was coming well in advance, but many did nothing. Yes I know that many people did not have access to vehicles, but I know what I would have done. If the disaster was so imminent, and I had no car, I ould take my wife and kids, a change of clothes and a little food in a backpack, and I would start walking.

It would have been hard, but could have been 30 or 60 or even 90 miles away by the time the hurricane hit. Plus, if you’re walking along the highway and major roads, it’s possible that you might be picked up by someone with some room.

Now not all people are capable of walking 30-90 miles. This is where the local gov’ts failed. City buses and school buses could have been sent in as early as Saturday, or even Friday, to start taking people out. Neighboring counties could have sent their buses to aid in the evacuation. Trains could have been used.

My point is not to blame the victims. Yes, the gov’t could have (and should have) done more sooner, but so could everyone else involved.

People shouldn’t depend on the gov’t for their livelihood or well being. City gov’ts can act on their own to some degree, as can county and state gov’ts.

Everyone, from the federal gov’t to the state/local gov’t to the victims themselves, dropped the ball on this one. In my mind, the only “innocents” are those that are physically incapable of doing something — the elderly, young children, the handicapped, those in hospitals, etc.

Mark Gerdes wrote:

State and local officials are supposed to have a plan in place to provide essentials and law and order in designated shelter areas until the massive Federal mobilization of resources can occur.

The city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana had no plan even to provide water. They had no plan to provide security at their “shelter of last resort”. The result was gang rapes of children, roving ganges, feces smeared walls, suicide, and death.

The Federal response was slow and chaotic. The state and local response was non-existent. This is a systemic failure across all divisions, all races, all political parties.

Now the finger pointing begins.

M. Douglas Wray wrote:

A single man with a single shaped charge could have caused this.

Imagine what’s to come.

Imagine how bad our ‘Homeland Security’ “Team” is going to fall down next time.

DW17 wrote:

It seems that many are comparing this to Sept 11, Iraq, Afganistan, etc…

The effected area is much larger than Manhattan…and many more people effected such that rescue workers cannot get there.

And while Speaker Hastert may have been insensitive when he suggested that N.O. not be rebuilt…he may be right…it is not a good place to put lots of people…below sea level…close to the ocean (ok the gulf).

Lets not forget that other states/cities were effected…I think if you go back to Andrew, the destruction may be similar, but the ability to actually get to people and places that are totally uninhabitable is completely different…

Something to ponder…

And, lets stop finger pointing and help those who need it…then sort it all out…

Sheldon Lavine wrote:

> The city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana
> had no plan even to provide water. They had no
> plan to provide security at their “shelter of
> last resort”. The result was gang rapes of
> children, roving ganges, feces smeared walls,
> suicide, and death.

That result also required evil people to carry out those first 2 or 3 acts.

Chris Longo wrote:

1. Communication problems where suppose to be fixed after 9/11 in all communities. It appears nothing has been done.

2. We are to poor to fix things like levees because we are spending a lot of money on Iraq.

3. Homeland Security is doing what? Is it an effective organization? It appears not. So why do we have it? Tom Ridge spent a lot of money on equipment that does not work. The new director needs to replace it. Tom Ridge is probably getting big kick backs from those companies since he quit his job because he was not getting paid enough.

4. The state doesn’t have National Guard troops because they are in Iraq. The first priority for a state National Guard is to protect the state not fight a war of choice some where.

James Blair wrote:

I had a long diatribe ready to refute the last post point by point, but it’s not worth arguing about at this time. Last time I noticed, neither Bush nor his opponents had control of tropical weather (though I’ve noticed a lot less of it while Clinton was in office, so maybe it was all a Democrat plot after all… this is a joke of course).

No “system” costing a finite amount of money could have possibly mitigated a disaster of this magnitude. Assuming 50 people per bus, it’d take something on the order of 20,000 busses to evacuate New Orleans. Even if we had that many, and everyone politely lined up to be bussed out, try moving them all out of the city in 2 days. Not that Bush or anyone else could dial the red phone and call 20,000 busses that happened to be close to New Orleans.

Administrator wrote:

I agree that finger pointing at this stage isn’t the best use of time. Nevertheless, let’s at least look at the federal response: http://www.gnn.tv/articles/1663/System_Failure

James Blair wrote:

Hm… consider the source. I think that report would have a lot more impact with a more neutral-sounding headline. As it is, the headline doesn’t give much reason for anyone who doesn’t already dislike Bush for other reasons to read the article.

C’mon folks, this is BUG-bash, not BUSH-bash!

Chloe Paraty Bag wrote:

As typical this was a thoughtful publish these days. You make me want to preserve coming back and forwarding it my followers….


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Bug Bash is a comic strip written and illustrated by Hans Bjordahl. Bug Bash is a comic strip about technology: managing technology, the business of technology. It's about project management and managing projects through the dull world of Rational Rose, use cases, and requirements. Functional requirements, user requirement, functional specifications, design specifications, call it what you want but it's still the bane of project managers. And when you're done with that, you can think about all the fun that comes with timelines, scheduling, estimates (PERT estimation anyone?) and resourcing until Gantt charts are coming out of your ears. Let's not forget the risk management in the software engineering life cycle. Maintaining the project is just as much fun, managing what was initially set out in requirements and trying to keep feature creep / scope creep in check with change management. If any of these words send nightmares to you, the project manager, then this site probably rings true with you. (Who Links Here?)