After hurricane Katrina in 2005, officials are on their toes in responding to natural disasters. Yet they also deserve praise when they prepare well for the effects of storms or floods.
For elected leaders in the US, it is now an axiom of post-Katrina politics that they must either be prepared for a major storm or suffer voter wrath afterward.
Given all the smart preparations for hurricane Irene along the Eastern Seaboard, the axiom seems to have sunk in.
Among other steps, dams and bridges have been inspected, the homeless brought into shelters, water and food have been stocked. Sandbags, plywood, and chain saws are being distributed.
And a website – www.ready.gov – provides good tips on preparing for a hurricane’s wind, flooding, and ocean surge.
Public anger at government officials for a weak response after a calamity may be the norm, but voters in states from South Carolina to Maine – or the 1 in 5 Americans in Irene’s possible path – would do well to thank emergency workers who are on top of the latest ideas in disaster response.
Gratitude, like honey, can do more than the vinegar of complaints to make sure officials keep learning after each disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, was widely praised for its “leaning forward” response to the recent giant tornadoes in the South and Midwest. Still, FEMA seems daunted by Irene. “This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time,” said director Craig Fugate.