Why Now?
Thursday, September 29, 2005
  Ice
In a couple of different places¹ I've seen the quote attributed to Michael Brown that he didn't understand why FEMA was supposed to supply ice. This example is from KWTX, Waco, Texas:
Brown also testified it isn't the government's job to provide ice in the wake of a hurricane or other disaster.

Brown told the House panel that it's wrong for the federal government to be providing ice to keep "beer and diet coke cool."

He says that is why the government stresses people should have several days of non-perishable food on hand.

Brown says the ice should be used to keep baby formula and medications fresh.
Without getting into the practice of using cold drinks to maintain temperatures in a cooler, or the effect of having something cold to drink when the heat index is 105°, or the use of ice in treating heat-related illnesses, or the economic impact on a family of losing the contents of their refrigerator, I will ignore those benefits of ice and deal with a more fundamental truth: ice is made from water and is drinkable.

After Opal I was down to melted ice for drinking on a couple of occasions. The freeze-dried foods I was using required water to be semi-palatable. The minor wounds required clean water to prevent infection. Frozen water stays cleaner, longer that standing water in a jug, which is why I won't buy a five-gallon water jug: it's too easy for the jug to become contaminated.

The effect of a cold drink can applied to your face and neck can only be appreciated by someone who has been without electricity for a week and is working outside to clear trees and brush away from utility lines to speed the re-establishment of air conditioning.

What FEMA needs to do is to drop representatives into areas after a disaster with what they are wearing and a satellite phone. Let the representatives directly experience the effects of the decisions made by their agency and we might see an improvement in service delivery.

I also heard Mr. Brown talk about having trouble knowing where supplies were. I don't imagine FEMA has thought of talking to any large trucking firms to learn how they track their trucks all over the country using satellites and computer links. FEMA might want to have someone look at GIS [Geographic Information Systems] and other mapping solutions. They could probably get a good deal from the multiple federal agencies that use it and provide the underlying databases.

1. I know, I should have said blogtopia™ [skippy the bush kangaroo].

 



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