Monday, April 23, 2007

Lessons learned in Louisiana

A couple days and 1,000 miles removed from the situation in Southern Louisiana, I'm still trying to figure out the lessons to be learned from the experience. Buras was a community that prided itself on its self reliance, and in many ways I think that's made the recovery all the more difficult. There is no way to rebuild and recover from such a tragedy without a strong social network to support the efforts.

As far as I can determine, there was no real community leadership in Buras before the storm (especially in government), so there's been a tremendous void post-Katrina. Emergency Communities and some active and dedicated local residents are now filling that vacuum, and I have no doubt that they'll get the job done to the best of their abilities.

It's an object lesson to the rest of us, and we need to recognize the importance of planning, peparedness, prevention and a strong social safety net. Creating a disaster plan is a tremendously complex and difficult task, and even the best one can't prepare us for every eventuality. That said, the work has to be done.

What truly scares me is the fact that we're already being forced to deal with tremendous cuts to social services locally due to budget problems in Cook County. The gutting of these services will further hamper us in any attempts to prepare for the possibility of an emergency situation.

The human capital of many caring individuals, such as those I met in Buras, will see us through some problems, but without real leadership and community these efforts will be disorganized, inefficient and unproductive.
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