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Lessons We're Bound to Have to Repeat

At a recent storage conference in Frankfurt, Germany, I found myself confronting numerous inquiries from attendees, not only about storage technology, but also about Hurricane Katrina and its deeper ramifications. Everyone seemed to appreciate the awesome force of nature that was brought to bear on the Mississippi Delta.

A Category 4 hurricane is nothing less that a fractional kiloton nuclear explosion, horrific in its impact and devastating in its longer term effects, as television footage of the devastation clearly shows. But, that wasnt the issue on everyone's mind. Unlike other significant disasters, such as the Northridge earthquake, Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Ivan, and of course Sept. 11, the world did not see the familiar outpouring of compassion and selfless support by neighbors of the victimized area, or the quick, decisive intervention of authorities in the hours--or days--after the emergency.

One fellow said he had always admired the way that Americans came together in a crisis and pulled themselves up from the most horrendous calamity. This time, however, he was sickened by both the protracted delay in emergency response and, even more so, by the violent images.

Doubtless as the post-mortem is done on Hurricane Katrina, as happens with all disasters, many of these theories will be validated to whatever extent that they reflect reality, or they will be put to rest. My only contribution to the discussion was and is the following. First, there are protocols (that those of us in Florida know all too well) for coping with hurricane threats. We are very familiar with this kind of disaster, and the drill is fairly well established.

First, hurricanes provide significant advanced warning. The threat of a storm making landfall is known for days before it happens. That's a good thing, since the alert gives us all time--from private citizens, to businesses, to governmental emergency managers--to take some preparatory steps.

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