Hospital officials have been calling for their patients to be evacuated since early Tuesday. Helicopters finally began showing up Thursday morning to ferry people to safety, but the exodus was quickly halted because of security concerns, Smithburg said.While the incidents that caused the evacuation to be suspended yesterday clearly were a cause for concern, there is an underlying question here as to why were the hospitals in such bad shape in the first place?
Homeland Security Czar Michael Chertoff and FEMA Chief Michael Brown have both tried to dodge governmental responsibility saying, essentially, "the people were warned to leave the city, it's not our fault." While that may sound good on the surface, it belies the fact that many who remained were the poor, the ill and the elderly. The segments of the population that need assistance the most in times of crisis.
It also begs the question as to why, then, were the hospitals not evacuated?
A hospital is one place that would be expected to be prepared to handle an emergency situation. It could be reasonably be expected that if the city was truly prepared, the hospitals would be shining examples of emergency preparedness. Instead, numerous hospitals have had to get by with no electricity and no running water while awaiting an evacuation that came several days later.
If the hospitals weren't prepared, was anyone?
The city and the state should have been better prepared, but a scenario such as this is beyond their scope and could only be addressed by the resources available to the federal government, namely FEMA, and agency that said in 2001 that a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the top three "likeliest, most catastrophic disaster" facing the country in the coming years. There was sufficient warning to prepare for this exact situation.
The DHS has had four years to being preparations for the evacuation of a city. This should have been an opportunity to show that if there was a major disaster in a city, natural or man-made, the U.S. was prepared.
This should serve as a warning that the government is not prepared, nor is it prepared to accept responsibility when it fails to act properly.