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saving someone from a carchaos at the convention centerline of cars and trucks leaving new orleans
What are the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina?  Are we prepared for other disasters in waiting?

Dear FRONTLINE,

The FEMA planning for disasters reminds me of the legend of the queen who, when told that the peasants had no bread, said "Well, let them eat cake."

FEMA seemed to think that all one had to do in case of a hurricane is jump in your BMW and drive to the nearest Ritz hotel. The assumptions were that everyone had a reliable working car, a driver's license, that you had the money for even a motel 6 and restaurant food, or children nearby to escort you out.

The same type of assumptions are being made with the "Prescription Drug Plan." The government assumes that the elderly have access to a computer, are healthy enough to read, are free of Alzheimer's, medications won't change rapidly, and finally, if all else fails, that you have children who can figure it all out for you.

I don't have any children. What are people like me supposed to do when we are old? The government assumes that the elderly all have children nearby to help them. The hurricane response and the new drug program are two cases in my point.

There needs to be some planning for the portion of elderly that live alone and may not have any relatives that can help.

linda rutherford

Dear FRONTLINE,

Watching Katrina from afar from days before the storm hit all the way through tonight I was horrified yet again by the lack of response from FEMA. Learning that we are cutting it back even more is mind bending, but somehow typical of our present Administration in Washington. I feel very sorry for the FEMA workers who have left this once excellent agency.

Brown manages to cast blame in every direction but his own. Finally though admitting he should have sent in 10,000 (?) troops from day one. Apparently he could have. I wonder if this will be picked up beyond PBS.

Thank you Frontline for trying to dig deep into this disaster of epic proportions. Reading other thoughts here that this was in some way a minor disaster and the responsibility of locals is truly baffling.

T. M. Gold
Costa Mesa, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

A simple question you need to ask yourself, who are you going to call if a disaster happens in your town. Your first respones isn't the federal goverment, but your local city and state authorities. They're the first responders that a city will call on if a disaster occurs. The failure of the city and state are apparent, but frontline failed to show their failures, instead the program choices to show the federal goverment slow response.

If the producer of this show's house were under water you won't be calling the white house for help.

Art Saucedo
vacaville, ca.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Perhaps it is nothing more than an overweening sense of pride, but in tonight's broadcast, you indicated that thousands of soldiers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne swooped into Louisiana. The truth is that the largest single contributor of Soldiers was from the Oregon National Guard at the request of the Governor of Louisiana. Most of the soldiers who responded to provide aide were National Guard soldiers from a number of states, but Oregon contributed a force of approximately 1900 soldiers and they did so within 48 hours during a three day weekend. Unfortunately they are underappreciated and were placed in the most difficult and heavily impacted part of New Orleans. They also played a critical role following Hurricane Rita.

Craig Campbell
Keizer, Oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

Bravo for your report, however, having worked on a temporary assignment for FEMA in Los Angeles, I was amazed at the lack of co-ordination or sense of urgency AFTER THE STORM HIT. I cannot blame the FEMA AGENCY in Washington, DC alone. Unfortunately this agency outsources work to contractors who promise the sun, moon and stars with their capabilities and then drop the ball when the challenge arrises. I've seen this with my own two eyes.I befriended a Katrina Victim, who, after 2 MONTHS, is still waiting for financial assistance and I will do whatever I can do to prompt her to get financial assistance she is rightfully due (at this point she is still in contact with FEMA on a weekly basis to find out her status)... in spite of the delay.The only ones I feel truly sorry for are the victims who were relying to productive, knowledgable and fullfilling help ...that has not arrived.

Bianca Lohrey
Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was a tourist in New Orleans the weekend before the storm. Our departure flight was to be Sunday morning. Our hotel began giving notices to guests on Saturday morning that the storm was heading our way. Given the timeline, we thought our flight leaving Sunday morning would be sufficient and tried to stay calm. That calm was short lived when the next notice arrived telling us that Delta airlines had cancelled its Sunday morning flights and they expected other airlines to follow. It became clear right away that there was no other way out. Other alternative forms of transportation (rental cars, trains, buses) were not an option.

It still amazes me how quickly our situation changed. We were just lucky that our airline was Midwest and did fly out that Sunday morning - the weather was fine at that point. I don't think I've heard anyone talk about the tourist situatin in these stories. I'm not complaining, just offering another view that after a certain point, there was no way of getting out of New Orleans. I am still curious as to the private sector's responsibility in these situations. If Delta cancelled Sunday flights on Saturday - they were not even going to make an attempt to try to be of any assistance.

Terri Banks
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

The communication infrastructure failure was even worse in some of the smaller communities which were cut off by the storm and did not receive the benefit of news media or FEMA attention for days. The one communication channel which was quickly up and running was ham radio operators. Hams were virtually the only outside communication available in Washington Parish, St. Tammany Parish and in parts of New Orleans. Ham operators were also the backbone of the communication network set up by the Red Cross to coordinate its personnel and Emergency Response Vehicles. The Red Cross correctly anticipated the communication failure and prepositioned radio operators and equipment to begin setting up as soon as the storm abated. FEMA was shocked when they finally discovered the Red Cross site at Abita Springs the Thursday or Friday after the storm. By then the Spirit of America (a mobile kitchen owned by a Texas Baptist Church and staffed by some of the nicest people you could ever meet) was up and cooking hot meals, a radio network to cummunicate with the vehicles delivering the meals was functioning, and internet phone and data links were set up by Red Cross Ham operators to coordinate the whole thing. All this happened without a single person receiving a salary being involved.

Steve Irving
Baton Rouge, La

Dear FRONTLINE,

My daughter lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She and a friend evacuated to our house in Arkansas before a mandatory evacuation was ordered. (She was stuck in Hattiesburg, MS last year for four hours during the evacuation for Ivan.) She learned her lesson. Leave at night. Drive when it's cooler. If you get stuck, your engine is much less likely to overheat.

These two young women walked into my house early Sunday morning as Katrina was bearing down on their homes. Mayor Nagin was on TV "suggesting" that his residents leave if they could. They both erupted at the same moment, yelling at the TV, asking why he hadn't ordered a mandatory evacuation the day before -- they both had heard the analyzes that said it would take 72 hours to evacuate that city. If they could see the disaster coming, why couldn't that be true for people in a position to do something about it?

Nobody cares about the people who are homeless in Mississippi right now. Am I saying that? No, they are. I hear them through my daughter's voice. I read their newspaper, with anguished and angry letters to the editor. It's not true, you know. People do care. We saw that when we went back with her two weeks after Katrina struck. They are there from all over the U.S. -- and they are working their hearts out! Could some news organization please give them the recognition they deserve?

Does anyone out there really believe that things will be different the next time a disaster strikes this country? Don't everyone raise your hands at once.

Thanks for listening,

Janet Brantley
Fouke, Arkansas

Dear FRONTLINE,

The inadequacies of the levee systems in the State of Louisiana have been known for years....even decades. The problem boils down to money. This state receives only a fraction of the oil and gas revenues compared to what other states receive, so it is impossible to fund the millions or billions of dollars needed to upgrade the levees. Therefore, we have to depend on the federal government for financial assistance. Unfortunately, with our tiny electoral make-up, funds do not flow into this state like they do elsewhere.

Kerry Morvant
Vacherie, LA

Dear FRONTLINE,

When Mr. Brown said "...I don't want to sound like I'm passing the buck..." and then immediately did just that, he just doesn't know how he sounds.

It is just so embarrassing for him to not own up to and just admit he wasn't the best guy for the position. He should have admitted right off that the problem was that he had no experience and should never have been put in the position of FEMA director. When FRONTLINE put the FEMA director from the previous administration under the test the reporter says, "...you really weren't tested like this..." and then he rattled off three major disasters that he had been confronted with and I thought, "Those were times when things went right and people were helped when FEMA was run by a professional.

David Mardis
Norman, Oklahoma

Dear FRONTLINE,

Growing up along the Mississippi in St Louis we saw floods almost every year. We saw the big floods that devestated areas and we knew FEMA would always be there.

All one had to do was to look at the weather channel or the internet to see where this storm was headed. Once it hit there was no way a local government could evacuate a destroyed city.

Evacuating NO surrounded by water needed a "Berlin Airlift" type action. The flood waters were like an army that had surrounded a beseiged city. How is it that foreign countries realized this and offered aid while the ball was dropped at home.

In this country we offer help regardless if its requested or not. We dont wait for a choking victim to request the heimlich or to pull a drowning victim to safety. I'm just very disappointed with FEMA and the federal government.

terence collier
dallas, texas

Dear FRONTLINE,

If, as stated in the report, the "Pam" scenario was a good predictor of Katrina, and "Pam" predicted 100,000 people would be left stranded and (correct me if I am wrong) that 20,000 would die, why did the report not compare how many were actually stranded and died (approx. 1000) in Katrina to the "Pam" estimates? Was it because the Katrina numbers were so low compared to "Pam" that one would have to label the Federal effort a success, and the biased conclusion of your report would have been undercut? Report the "Pam" and Katrina numbers; then compare those to the number of people who die EVERY week in traffic accidents. Do you still have a story?

Roy Salisbury
Rochester, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was a wonderful program! Thank you so much for reporting on this in a way that far surpasses what the nation sees of us on stations like CNN. The people I know here in New Orleans are dying to have their stories heard.

Fortunately for my family, we did not flood, but our house was right near the 17th street canal so our house became a hotel for people to stay at while they salvaged their own houses. The stories I have heard! The discussions that I've had with so many people. This has cleared up much of what we have talked about.

Please do not forget about us, though! This city is rebuilding, our story is not over. There is something exraordinary going on here. Lovers of New Orleans are trying to make a difference. Please keep us in mind for future programs.

Sonny Smith
Metairie, LA

Dear FRONTLINE,

For those seeking answers about FEMA assistance, a web site has been established:

www.FEMAanswers.org

This site is dedicated to help the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita obtain adequate assistance from FEMA. The goal of this site is to provide information about FEMA programs and what benefits survivors should receive.

Craig Castellanet
Oakland, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

After watching "The Storm" it was apparent that interview's conducted by Frontline to FEMA and Administration Officials, were an effort to place blame in their lap's, while softball questions were tossed to Mayor Nagin and Governor Landreau.

If blame is to be made (and apparently this was the intent of Frontline producers), what is the responsibility of those who tragically stayed in New Orleans even after a "mandatory evacuation order" was issued?

Ed Burnham
Rotonda West, Florida

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posted nov. 22, 2005

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