In 2014, Kate Allen wrote a piece in the Independent on Syrian evacuees.
Since the violence erupted in Syria, 2.3 million people have fled the country, more than half of them children. The Syrian refugee crisis has been called “the most pressing humanitarian disaster of our time”, yet the UK government’s reaction has been tentative, to say the least.
I thought of Ms. Allen’s while reflecting on my nine months of FEMA service during the aftermath of Hurricane’s Katrina, Rita and Sandy. William “Brock” Long is charged with fulfilling the Trump Administration’s Hurricane Harvey FEMA effort. And while I sympathize with tactical, geographical and political challenges, I have grown weary of hearing how Hurricane Harvey was “unprecedented” or is a “one in five hundred-year,” no wait, “one in one thousand-year” event.
No. Harvey wasn’t.
All we needed to do was open the history books of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. Then, as now, scared and desperate civilians laid in the path of Mother Nature’s middle finger and fled, swam or drowned. CNN, MSNBC and print media filled our senses of vulnerable people: the elderly, unaccompanied children, flood survivors, drowning victims, and abandoned pets.
The Mayor of the City of Houston stated he could not justify evacuating the nation’s fourth largest city. People would die trying to evacuate – which is sort of like saying they’ll die if they try, so might as well die in their homes, terrorized by flooding they cannot outrun. Still, I’m unsure if I can overtly criticize the Mayor. Maybe he’s honest. Maybe he’s a political schmuck representing a broader city council who allowed unchecked regulatory building within a flood-prone area. Regardless, I do, however, note that we’ve been through this before.
Just as Kate Allen described, the European Union’s relocation of Syrian refugees is exhausting, both on an economic and humanitarian level. Transpose that to Houston, Texas. Image if the U.S. had to relocate 4 million of Houston’s 6 million residents? Where would they go? Dallas-Ft. Worth? San Antonio? Austin? New Orleans?
If many local residents bitch about handling a couple of thousand international refugees, how do we handle the mass relocation of a major metropolitan area? The World Bank defines migration as “a process whereby a community’s housing, assets, and public infrastructure are rebuilt in another location.” Others emphasize other relocation factors as the “permanent (or long-term) movement of a community (or a significant part of it) from one location to another, in which important characteristics of the original community, including its social structures, legal and political systems, cultural characteristics and worldview are retained.”
FEMA is unprepared. In a post-9/11 world, our government’s preparedness for natural disasters takes a back seat to terrorism. 2005 government figures revealed 75 cents of every $1 spent on emergency preparedness went to anti-terrorism programs. A 2015 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey found nearly 60 percent of American adults have not practiced what to do in a disaster. Additionally, only 39 percent had developed an emergency plan. This is despite the fact that 80 percent of Americans live in counties that have been hit by a weather-related disaster.
This whole post summarizes the obvious: we suck!
As the nation recovers from Harvey, as of this writing, Hurricane Irma approaches from afar. But wherever Irma hits, it’s already too late. The damage to be incurred was created decades ago by ignorant politicians appealing to their partisan base.
Maybe the U.S. will get serious and prepare for the future?
Nah! Probably not.