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#194038 - 01/21/10 12:20 AM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: Susan]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
From what I'm seeing is that the military, actually the demand that the military supply what looks like a huge amount of security and no supplies go out without this security organized and in place, is a big problem. The Air Force asked permission to do air drops as they have in other situations, essentially drawing a circle on a map and delivering standard humanitarian rations thousands at a time in small packages so nobody gets hurt, without landing, but the Haitian government said they didn't want that.

This would have been far faster because the flights could be loaded in the US and delivered without having to wait to land, wait to unload, and then wait to take off. All flights are carrying enough fuel for round trips anyway as Haiti doesn't have the fuel or equipment. But the big payoff would be that delivers shotgun fashion supplies are delivered as fast as the flights can be cycled. No need for security, trucks, unloading or worry about the roads being clear.

There are a lot of reports of people who are a few hundred feet away from the supplies they need to save lives. Doctors who can literally see the pallets of supplies but can't get to them and can't have them delivered because the larger organization needs to arrange security for the delivery.

People hungry and thirsty who can see the supplies but who are stopped by a fence, armed guards, and bureaucracy from getting them.

We are better than a week into this disaster and only in the last hours has their been any effort to feed people on a mass scale.

The kicker for me was that ABC had a report where the truck wasn't loaded for several hours, from existing supplies, because there was a slight aftershock and the people wouldn't go into the hangar. And then, decided that they couldn't operate at night. Night is more than half the time available. My impression was that the people loading the truck and organizing this group were not very enthusiastic or energetic in doing the work. There clearly wasn't any sense of urgency.

Driving at night isn't fun but if your determined to do the job you work it out. Worse case you send out scouts to determine open routes and have people walking out front with kerosene lanterns if needed. You might only do two miles an hour but, on the up side, Haiti is a small place and even at two miles an hour you can cover a lot of ground in the 12.5 hours of night.

#194057 - 01/21/10 03:55 AM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: Art_in_FL]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
One of the biggest issues, and sources of confusion and indecision, perhaps best defined as a lack of leadership, has to do with the UN leadership, heads of the major NGOs, key people with the US embassy, and a good part of the Haitian government being killed or incapacitated by the earthquake. Add to that the admirable, but inconvenient, desire of the US military and UN to take their cues from the Haitian government and your looking at amateur night. Many of the professionals, those who were most aware of the situation and who had experience in the area and detailed knowledge of the area were killed or are injured.

All that and the fact that Haiti is a third world country with rampant poverty, poor infrastructure, poor construction standards have conspired to make the situation many time worse. There are plenty of really good reasons why things don't go smoothly.

Part of the lesson is that disaster relief isn't just handing out supplies and patting children on the head. Or even the massive complications of logistical issues.

What gets forgotten are the difficult issues of media relations, politics, international relations, psychology, group dynamics all play a part. Mistakes in any of those areas can cripple a relief effort. Easy as it might be to discount the roll of the press and diplomats the fact is that without the former the word and pictures wouldn't get out (media drives fund raising) and without the later we wouldn't be able to operate in Haiti at all. It is a sovereign nation with every right to say who comes in and what they do.

It has to be assumed that everyone is doing their best to do the right thing. There is little point in assuming otherwise. My critique is centered on what I see as a misapprehension of the situation and disordering of priorities. Not malevolence or stupidity.

Of course nobody comes in without existing biases. The military will always be more concerned with security and having reliable manpower on hand. Diplomats will focus on protocols and keeping the local government comfortable enough to allow relief to continue. Many of the major disaster relief organizations have more of a mid and long term focus and put emphasis on what it will look like in ten days or two weeks and after. Injury, hunger and thirst are the big issues now but if the water supply isn't set up we could see cholera and typhus epidemics that could make the death toll so far pale. Only about half the people in Haiti are vaccinated against tetanus and this may be the next big killer. It is not a pleasant way to go.

I see more than a few mistakes but feel sort of like I'm watching a horror movie. No ... don't separate ... don't go into the darkened room alone. Errors that are obvious from afar aren't always clear on site. And there is every chance that I'm seeing things that aren't there. Or issues that were corrected moments after I read or saw the account.

In the long term I'm pretty sure the relief agencies and military and logistical experts will all come together, study the events, critique their own performance and incorporate what they learn.

More importantly, and more central to this site, discussing the issues of what goes wrong and what can go wrong gives you some insight into how such things go. How seeming insignificant issues like how local jurisdictional boundaries fall can make a big difference. How getting the right type and amounts of media exposure can determine how your area fares in the long term. In the end if your going to survive and do good after a disaster your going to have to deal with people.

There are a lot of people who see survival as a beans and bandages, tactical, issue. Most of the relief experts see survival as a logistical issue. The best of those understand that those issues have to be handled in a larger context.

#194058 - 01/21/10 04:08 AM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: Art_in_FL]
Blast Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 3760
Loc: TX

Very well said.

Foraging Texas
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#194059 - 01/21/10 04:16 AM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: Blast]
JohnE Offline

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 601
Loc: Southern Cal
A calm voice amidst the histrionics and cynicism.

Thanks Art.


"and all the lousy little poets
comin round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson"

The Future/Leonard Cohen

#194061 - 01/21/10 04:44 AM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: dougwalkabout]
Eric Offline

Registered: 09/09/06
Posts: 323
Loc: Iowa
Regarding the helicopters.

I'm not exactly sure of the math (its a bit late) but I think you would need over 30,000 helicopter flights (Navy SH60) per day to provide 1 gallon of water to each of the 3 million people. I think that works out to around 3,000 helicopters and crews assuming all maint work is done at night.

Ships, railroads and trucks are how you move large amounts of supplies.

- Eric
You are never beaten until you admit it. - - General George S. Patton

#194095 - 01/21/10 06:55 PM Re: Question for the mods: Lessons from Haiti [Re: Eric]
wildman800 Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/09/06
Posts: 2845
Loc: La-USA
An SH-60 can carry 4,000-5,000 LBS of cargo for a short distance.

Many factors determine cargo weights, especially flight time/distances, number of crewmen, minimum altitude allowed for the flight due to natural and manmade obstacles, etc, etc.

Don't forget the "bird factor". Bird populations have a major impact on low level flight ops.

If I recall correctly, an aircrew is good for 8 hours and then they have to rest.
The best luck is what you make yourself!

#194109 - 01/22/10 12:24 AM Re: Question for the mods [Re: TeacherRO]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1372
If there's one lesson we can learn from Haiti it's probably this ...

* If you need rescue during a major disaster - it's probably going to come from your neighbors. Staying friendly is a good idea. But do you have tools to dig out your neighbors from a collapsed building, and do they have tools to rescue you? I realized that I don't even have a large-sized crowbar. I think I'm gonna' go pick one up from the hardware store.

** If you need first-aid - it's probably going to come from your neighbors. A lot of people on this forum probably have some kind of first-aid experience. But does your NEIGHBOR have those skills too?? Maybe we really don't want to consider that question too deeply. If I see my neighbor coming over to my place and carrying a bottle of whisky and a hacksaw ... I might just loan him a handgun and be done with it :-)

other Pete

#194112 - 01/22/10 12:47 AM Re: Question for the mods [Re: Pete]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7705
Loc: southern Cal
Perhaps another lesson or two:

Decent infrastructure helps, as does relatively competent government agencies.

The Northridge quake was rated as a 6.7, somewhat weaker than the current Haiti event - a 7.0 I believe. But there is a stunning difference in fatalities. 72 fatalities are attributed to the Northridge event, the most spectacular of which was a motorcycle patrolman hurrying along the freeway predawn and finding a collapsed bridge the hard way.

Hospitals were damaged and the systems was stressed, resulting in the passage of remedial legislation, but unrest was minimal.

And yes, I am sure there was a lot of neighborly help. Thank God for that. Nobody is closer at hand than your neighbor.

Pete, while you are at the store, get two wrecking bars and stash them in different places. One good spot is under the bed.
Geezer in Chief

#194125 - 01/22/10 03:59 AM Re: Question for the mods [Re: Pete]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Rescue and first aid from one's neighbors - I don't mean to detract from the heroism of any of the foreign SARs operating in Haiti, but speaking in round terms 99.99% of the rescues and inital aid to EQ victims in this disaster came from Haitians. You can't see that from the media coverage, every person pulled from deep in the rubble is a miracle, worth reporting and praising, I think they number in the hundreds - but tens of thousands were pulled from the rubble in the early hours of this disaster, which seems really amazing to me.

Crow bar, long barrel crow pry bar (forget the technical name for this - 4 ft long crowbar, it costs $28 at Ace Hardware), bolt cutters if you are searching through reinforced masonry, shovels, gloves, masks, some cut up SPF wood for leveraging and cribbing - do the CERT training on light S&R, have these things handy, and you can have a pretty good idea of what you may be doing the first 48-96 hours after an earthquake. Its either that or work the triage area treating crush injuries and fractures with immobilization and motrin...

#194135 - 01/22/10 12:11 PM Re: Question for the mods [Re: Tarzan]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2182
Loc: Bucks County PA
Originally Posted By: Tarzan
I guess the one thing we can take away is if this type of disaster were to hit a large population center in the US, similar situations would ensue.

What utter crap. Give Americans more credit. First of all, we've had massive incidents - flooding in the midwest, fires in the west, yes, even Katrina, and - the smallest event worth mentioning - 9/11. Yes, there were some problems in New Orleans - but you know what? There wasn't as much looting and violence as reported. A lot of it was spooked white guys who never set foot out of their small towns into an urban situation imagining "sniper fire" from afar. Was there violence? Absolutely. Was it widespread and ongoing? Not at all.

In California, in the earthquake that took out the Bay Bridge and devastated so much of the area, was it utter chaos and violence? No.

We are a rich nation. We are a rich people. The poorest of us on this forum are kings compared to most people on this planet. We have water, we have food, we have shelter. We have, however you feel about it, a government that mostly works. We have access to physical and logistical resources that are mostly effective.

I'm sick and tired of people thinking that America is on the brink of chaos all the time. We gripe and moan and whine and wheedle about one political football or another, but you know what? My electric is on, my phones work, my food is fairly safe, I drive on roads that are mostly in good shape, I can call 911 and cops or firefighters or an ambulance will come.

In big emergencies, our wealth is our biggest asset. Not money wealth (but that helps) but the wealth of social networks, the wealth of education, the wealth of material goods we own and can use or share to solve problems.

As a government appointed Emergency Management Coordinator, one of my tasks was to create a directory of key local resources that we might need to use in a major emergency. Stuff like backhoes, portable toilets, fuel supplies, water treatment. My problem isn't finding these resources - it's picking which ones to use. When I put out the word that I needed to make a list of things we might need in an emergency, I was quickly overwhelmed by offers to help, offers of access to stockpiles (the local lumber yard said "Consider our entire inventory as well as our staff and equipment as on your list and available on 15 minutes notice".

We are not Haiti. We are not poor. We are still the strongest nation in the world, and while we may have fallen behind my friends in Europe and Asia in many areas, when it comes to domestic disaster response, we are still a nation that knows what to do in emergencies. We can (and do) mock the folks who go up Mt. Hood in a t-shirt, and we can (and do) ponder why someone would not carry a flashlight at all times, but I don't think we really ponder what it means to only have the money for a little food, and no more. No flashlights. No coats. No tents. They have nothing.

Final pontification and I'll step down.

I know a woman, her kids and mine play together some times. She has, in the past, gone to Haiti to do some work in an orphanage. One of the trips down (she has made several) she brought several large cardboard boxes of clothing. Upon arrival. when she opened the box, fights among the children broke out. Not over the clothing. Over the cardboard from the boxes. Because the cardboard made a better sleeping pad for the kids - who were sleeping on the ground. Imagine - struggling over cardboard so you don't have to sleep on the dirt. It's not like here. It's so unlike here you can't even imagine.

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