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#286528 - 09/29/17 03:13 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
Pete Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1313
I am sympathetic in every way towards the Puerto Ricans who are suffering. They didn't have much time to prepare for Hurricane Maria, and their island was already drenched by rain from Hurricane Irma. They have a lot of poor people. Preparedness was not a real solution for them. Only a swift-and-mighty response after the disaster can save lives.

I am sure the US military is trying hard.

The REAL LESSON here is for the people of Los Angeles. Take note. The disaster response could not get supplies to 3.6 million people ... one week after a major disaster. What do you think will happen in a region with more than 30 million people, after a huge earthquake??

Hence the FEMA Director "ain't lying". Preparedness is a life-or-death issue.

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#286530 - 09/29/17 04:50 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 5991
Loc: southern Cal
Originally Posted By: Pete


The REAL LESSON here is for the people of Los Angeles. Take note. The disaster response could not get supplies to 3.6 million people ... one week after a major disaster. What do you think will happen in a region with more than 30 million people, after a huge earthquake??

Hence the FEMA Director "ain't lying". Preparedness is a life-or-death issue.



Precisely on target comment. Someday, it will be our turn in the barrel and the PR situation is a previews of the problems inherent in large scale infrastructure destruction. Our planning is focused on something like self-sufficiency for three weeks, rather than three days.

The PR situation is far from good, but I think responders are valiantly striving to accomplish intricate logistical feats - hugely difficult when the infrastructure has gone so far South...
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#286531 - 09/29/17 05:51 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: hikermor]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1054
Loc: Alaska
For people caught in a major disaster, it probably always seems like help takes too long to arrive. Regarding Puerto Rico, it is hard to tell how much of the problems are due to the size of the incident and the geographic difficulties.

That being said, it is beginning to sound like the people down there may have some legitimate complaints about the speed and scale of the response. The WaPo article U.S. response in Puerto Rico pales next to actions after Haiti quake makes interesting reading.
Quote:
After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war. Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.

No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.

By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.

Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.


Edited by AKSAR (09/29/17 06:01 PM)
Edit Reason: typos
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#286532 - 09/29/17 07:12 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
Montanero Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1127
Loc: North Carolina
Well, at the risk of venturing into the political, the Washington Post is a rather biased source, and like any media outlet, requires a good bit of critical thinking when you read it. They are very open about their bias in their reporting.

There were large numbers of military already engaged in other disasters and operations:
Afghanistan is ramping up
Iraq/Syria is ramping up
North Korea is ramping up
Forces were already in Houston for disaster relief
Forces were already in Florida and the Caribbean for disaster relief
Forces were on standby for Puerto Rico before the hurricane hit

Other responsibilities and missions do not end, and disaster assistance is not a real mission of the US armed forces, it is a capability that is used, but they prepare and resource for missions.

The US military does not have unlimited resources. Comparing with an earthquake is like comparing apples and oranges. The differences in the types of damage and how widespread are great. For an island where the airfields, ports and transportation infrastructure is so heavily, and universally, damaged; and the neighboring territories are similarly damaged, it is a good deal more difficult. The time period of the Haiti earthquake was when the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq were winding down, so more forces were available. There were also not back to back disasters, it was an isolated event. The population of Haiti is much larger than that of Puerto Rico, as is the size.

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#286533 - 09/29/17 08:24 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Montanero]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1054
Loc: Alaska
Montanero, I agree that WaPo is not an unbiased source, but it is generally well respected. Then again, I'm not sure that there is any such thing as a truly unbiased source?

In any case, I didn't take the article as being critical of the military. The military takes the assignment it is given, and the resources made available, and does the best job they can under those constraints. I don't want this discussion to go off on a political tangent, so I'll leave it at that.

I do have a minor quibble with one comment of yours:
Originally Posted By: Montanero
Other responsibilities and missions do not end, and disaster assistance is not a real mission of the US armed forces, it is a capability that is used, but they prepare and resource for missions.
Disaster assistance is indeed a real mission of at least some portions of the US armed forces. Up thread I noted that the 26th MEU is already active in Puerto Rico. The Marine Corps has defined 10 Mission Essential Tasks (METS) for MEUs. (For example see 31st MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT OVERVIEW (mission and composition) .) One of those is explicitly stated as "Humanitarian Assistance" (HA). And every MEU does training and exercises for their HA mission during the 6 month work up prior to deployment. (For example 31st MEU trains for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief mission

The Coast Guard is part of the US armed forces, and humanitarian assistance and disaster aid is certainly part of their mission. I'm less familiar with the Army and Air Force, but I suspect various units in those services also have an explicitly stated mission of disaster response.


Edited by AKSAR (09/29/17 08:25 PM)
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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

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#286534 - 09/29/17 08:42 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
Bingley Offline
Veteran

Registered: 02/27/08
Posts: 1307
My impression from reading the news is that the slow response to the crisis in Puerto Rico is political and cultural, rather than practical or logistical. Where as the response to Houston and Florida was swift, there is just less political pressure on Puerto Rico. One the reasons may be that many Americans don't realize Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, and its residents are Americans. There is certainly a lot less media coverage on Puerto Rico. By comparison, the hour by hour update on Irma nearly gave me nightmares!

I feel like if we go deeper into this topic, the discussion will be unsuitable for this forum. But I started wondering, how do we know when a (seeming) delay is due to the size of the disaster? What are the administrative decisions/commands that must be given to set the effort in motion? How do the relief organizations (the military, for example) get ready to go and help?

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#286535 - 09/29/17 09:04 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
Montanero Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1127
Loc: North Carolina
Yes, the Coast Guard is part of the armed forces, but they do have a unique mission set (mostly law enforcement). They have little to do with war fighting. While there are some organizations that have a stated mission, it is a "when called upon, when necessary" mission based on what is already organic in organization, equipment, capabilities and training. Fighting wars is the primary purpose of the military, and the wars, and potential wars necessarily take priority. I have even seen congress refuse to fund disaster assistance training and equipment, because it does not enhance the primary missions.

There was no delay in response, it was more a matter of the initial response not meeting expectations of some people, mostly people who are not involved in the effort and are very emotionally involved, as they are the ones needing help. It is not magic, it takes time and there are not unlimited resources. The assistance is doing well with what they have, and more is on the way. More was planned from the beginning, as a follow on in case it was needed. Information is the key resource at the beginning, and it has to start somewhere.

The humanitarian assistance mission can take many forms. It is not specifically disaster relief.

Yes, AKSAR, I do not know of any media outlet or source of information that does not have some bias at least. The respect you refer to for the Washington Post is not universal, and they do come out publicly in support or opposition to particular politicians, and this article was an attempt to compare things that were not comparable.

Another aspect of this is the legal one. Like with Louisiana in Hurricane Katrina, the federal government can't legally deploy military or federal assets without the request from the governor. In Puerto Rico, this was requested before the hurricane. In Louisiana, the governor did not request it until much later than expected, even refusing the offer and suggestion from the federal level at first. You generally see now that the governors will think about getting ahead of the problem, as Puerto Rico did, to avoid a Katrina disaster.

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#286536 - 09/29/17 09:18 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Pete]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 814
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
I am still hearing on the news that relief supplies are piling up in port, and that road clearing is taking time, that truck drivers cannot/are not reporting to work to drive trucks to deliver relief supplies. I also heard it reported that specialized search/rescue crews have been diverted to road clearing duties because they can't get to where their skills are needed. (various NBC News reports)

The lack of a fully functioning road network seems to be a major, if not the critical problem and cause of the delay in getting on island resources to the people who need them.

According to the CIA World Fact book, PR has 26,862 km [about 16,691 miles] of roads throughout the island---a big job to get all that open. Haiti, in comparison, has about 4,266 km (about 2,651 miles) of roads. Exactly what percentage of these roads are blocked is unknown, but it appears to be very widespread.

Houston has road access from almost every direction, and boats could be launched into the flood waters to travel around from residential streets; it is much harder to travel on roads blocked by downed trees, various windblown debris and possibly (probably) washed out roads and damaged bridges: plus, everything needed to deal with those problems needs to be brought in by ship and aircraft---where stuff is already piling up. No guys with pickups and boats on trailers to help (Kudos to Cajun Navy!).

So, while I agree that more help is needed, I think the problem is harder and more complex than just sending more stuff and people. Road communications need to be restored. Doing it is going to be a hard, slow task.
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#286537 - 09/29/17 09:27 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Montanero]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 5991
Loc: southern Cal
While it is true that Puerto Rico does not figure in the College (that might matter to some politicos), I want to emphasize the logistical complications of simply being on an island, without land access from unaffected states.

At Channel Islands National Park, we found that any project, simply because it was going to take place on an island, increased costs by about one=third, to say nothing of related staffing and storage concerns. Puerto Rico is also fairly distant from the mainland, unlike the Ch islands. Resources were already strained by Harvey and Irma, and the infrastructure was rickety, even before the hurricane.

We could have done better,and I'll bet many mainlanders are surprised to learn that Puerto Ricans are US citizens (doubtless a subtle factor) but the situation is not at all another Katrina IMHO.
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#286538 - 09/29/17 09:42 PM Re: Puerto Rico - Real Large-Scale Emergency [Re: Montanero]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1054
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: Montanero
Another aspect of this is the legal one. Like with Louisiana in Hurricane Katrina, the federal government can't legally deploy military or federal assets without the request from the governor. In Puerto Rico, this was requested before the hurricane. In Louisiana, the governor did not request it until much later than expected, even refusing the offer and suggestion from the federal level at first. You generally see now that the governors will think about getting ahead of the problem, as Puerto Rico did, to avoid a Katrina disaster.
It is no longer the case that the federal government must wait for a request from a governor to deploy federal assets. One of the changes made after Katrina was to move FEMA to more of a "push" model (as opposed to a "pull" from the governor). Within certain limits, FEMA now has considerable authority to move assets and stage resources in advance of a predicted disaster such as a hurricane.

This was noted in the WaPo article:
"W. Craig Fugate, [----snip----] said that in a worst-case scenario, such as a tsunami, the federal government had long contemplated that Puerto Rico could be completely isolated, with its ports destroyed and all food and water needing to be airlifted onto the island or shuttled by Marine units that could land on beaches. Fugate said FEMA did not have to wait for a signal from Puerto Rican authorities before activating more military assets."(Emphasis added)
(Note that Fugate, a former director of FEMA, is very widely respected in the emergency management community, across the political spectrum.)
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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
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