Katrina response, private and public

JC Dill jcdill.lists at gmail.com
Tue Jan 19 21:03:18 UTC 2010

Bill Woodcock wrote:
> - Thinking to the longer term... The majority of people who die in 
> humanitarian disasters die of second-order effects like starvation and 
> disease that come in the wake of an earthquake or flood or whatever. 
> That's just beginning now in Haiti, and will continue for some time. 
> The people who died in the earthquake itself will be far outnumbered 
> by those who will die as a result of insufficiently prepared emergency 
> response. PCH and Cisco have been trying for _years_ to get donors to 
> support a ready-to-go emergency communications team for disaster 
> response, but it's been impossible to get donors to fund 
> _preparedness_ rather than after-the-fact response. But immediately 
> after an emergency is the _most expensive_ time to acquire generators 
> and fuel and solar panels and wind generators and batteries and 
> satphones and fiber and space-segments and so forth. All of that can 
> be _much more cheaply_ purchased or contracted for beforehand, and 
> delivered on-site weeks earlier. And those weeks are the weeks of 
> effective response that reduce second-order deaths in the wake of an 
> emergency. People who think they're being helpful with a donation now 
> should understand that the donation would have saved ten times as many 
> lives if it had been made a year ago, than if it's made now. If your 
> companies have charitable foundations, please get them to think about 
> that.

Well said Bill.

In addition, make sure everyone in your company has taken a CERT 
(Community Emergency Response Team) course.  Aside from cash donations, 
the most important thing you can do is get CERT training so you can be 
effective in an emergency situation.


The biggest problem in Haiti is a lack of an incident command 
structure.  Because of the lack of organization, resources are not 
effectively used and people die - the tools needed to rescue them aren't 
found in time, water isn't distributed in time, food and shelter isn't 
made available in time, etc.  Yes, all of these things are in 
desperately short supply, but the problem is greatly magnified when 
there's a lack of organization.  If they had better organization, then 
their scarce supplies would be used more effectively to benefit more people.

If every US tourist visiting Haiti or US citizen working in Haiti who 
survived the quake unharmed had CERT training, they could have helped 
organize and mobilize uninjured Haitian survivors to band together and 
be more effective.  This means being more effective at rescuing people, 
at triage, at providing emergency medical care, at communicating with 
municipal services (hospitals, doctors, police, fire departments), at 
determining what resources you have at hand (food, water, fuel, 
materials to build shelters) and how to best protect it, to ration it, 
to share and distribute it.  It will be a long time before we can get 
CERT training in-place in third-world countries to ensure that their 
citizens can have this training, but we have it here in the US - just 
about every fire department offers the courses, often for free.  Most 
offer the course to anyone who lives or works in their area.

I don't know what CERT-like programs exist outside the US, but I'm 
pretty sure that other developed countries have similar programs.

Brent Chapman has a presentation he gave at the USENIX/SAGE LISA 
Conference in San Diego on Thursday, 8 December 2005, and at the BayLISA 
meeting on Thursday, 20 October 2005:


The presentation is about how CERT training applies to IT disasters.  So 
not only will you be better positioned to provide personal help if you 
ever find yourself in a disaster situation like Haiti, you will also be 
able to apply the training to your day job in network operations.   :-)

You can also read about Brent's experience helping setup network 
communications in New Orleans after Katrina.


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