After he was booted from FEMA in the wake of Katrina, Michael Brown returned to Boulder, where he set up an emergency consulting business (and talked with me for this column on the one year anniversary of his "heckuva job.") But yesterday he headed back to the East Coast -- into the eye of the media storm, as it were -- to talk about the lessons of Katrina on assorted shows, including Today. One of those lessons: Local preparation is key -- even before the feds step in.
"It appears to me Mayor Nagin has learned the importance of evacuating his city, and Governor Bobby Jindal is doing a great job of staying in front of this storm, evacuating the areas surrounding New Orleans," Brown says in an e-mail sent out late August 31. "I was particularly impressed that Governor Jindal refuses to set up 'shelters of last resort.' You may recall that the New Orleans Superdome was deemed a 'shelter of last resort' by Mayor Nagin in 2005. At the time I questioned the wisdom of doing that because of the structural issues and, frankly, the message it sends to the citizens: If you don't evacuate you'll still have an escape hatch. And, as in 2005, Governor Haley Barbour is doing a great job of leading his state through this hurricane."
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But while the residents of the Gulf Coast are heading out, the areas aren't entirely empty.
"While everyone is rightfully focused on the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and other states affected by the storm," Brown adds, "I'd also ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers the literally thousands of first responders involved in the response and recovery efforts in Hurricane Gustav. Firefighters, USAR (Urban Search & Rescue Teams), doctors, nurses, police officers and others will be putting their lives at risk to help their fellow citizens. We don't pay these people enough money and Congress, states and cities don't always give them enough money for the resources they need to do their jobs. Please keep them in mind, too." -- Patricia Calhoun