Clueless In Haiti

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CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Mon. Jan. 18, 2010:  It isn’t just the Obama Administration but it is the world community that is being exposed for its complete ineptness in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti.

But it is the U.S. response and what it says about our “transformational” President that should concern us the most – concern about Haiti now, Haiti’s future, the entire Caribbean and most of all the quality of American government. Again the rest of the world may be doing no better but our very specific problem is the United States.

Let’s remind ourselves of the basics. Haiti is not half-way across the world, but just a few hundred miles of our American shores. And Haiti is not some far flung impossible terrain and people scattered in thousand different places. Ninety-five percent of the disaster is right in mostly flat open Port-au-Prince. Still our response has been pathetic.

Over 5 days later it is still complete chaos in Haiti. The United States or no United States, the far more serious and basic problem is the distribution of supplies or even care for the injured.

This very basic problem has been made obvious that after even after all these years and the countless disasters, our government still does not have a template – basic key sophisticated strategies that can be employed in virtually any disaster to bring immediate relief and quell widespread turbulence.

How simple would that be? As simple as beginning by immediately overlaying any disaster area with a grid pattern that would divide a disaster area into manageable size units cells so that each can be almost instantly analyzed for its specific profile and level of destruction and the options for relieving its needs.

That could be combined with an instant deployment of U.S. troops cell by cell into each grid area and the setting up of instant communications between all cells and the commanding officers in each coordinated from a central command.

The simple logic of breaking down a disaster region into manageable human sized areas of say one square mile each (or smaller) covering areas that encompass 100,000 or less disaster victims is a more than obvious technique for far better management of a disaster to lessen the suffering of those affected.

In tandem would be erecting temporary communications towers – kept in reserve in large numbers by the military for just such purposes – and portable generators in each cell while quickly distributing thousands of cheap battery operated radios and/or limited use cell phones creating an instant communications system for victims is another obvious initial step.

Likewise, having huge water tanks that can be lifted quickly by helicopter and containers filled with basic food stuffs. All of this activity managed by probably no more than a few dozen well trained U.S. Marines assigned to each cell, well trained and well armed, many of them parachuted in if necessary along with a compact command station.

So imagine Port-au-Prince immediately divided into 100-500 such cells within 24 hours of the earthquake based on a carefully designed and rehearsed emergency plan that the U.S. military and government maintained ( but does not). No matter the nature or seriousness of the disaster, within 24 hours creating a basic infrastructure for dealing with the emergency is important. It is an infrastructure that all the countries and relief agencies could then tap into and communicate with actively and within 48 hours a detailed high quality priceless analysis of the conditions and needs within each cell in the disaster grid widely available along with basic management and control of each cell in place along with a list of contact personnel in each all supplied basic communications equipment.

At that point, only 48 hours after the disaster, it can be clearly determined what kind of assistance can reach each cell under what conditions – some cells might even be closed off by the military if too dangerous and those there told to move to nearby areas – and also categorize each active cell as to the problems within each and its most pressing needs.

Is there any perfect response to a major disaster? Of course not. But after 200 hundred of years of experience, still watching our government operate in a haphazard ineffective bungling ways that would have you believe this is the first disaster they ever encountered, is more than troubling.

Further it makes laughable all President Obama’s claims that the U.S. is coming to Haiti’s immediate and longer term rescue. Worse who can have any confidence of a far more convoluted imprecise goal in Afghanistan a place thousands of miles away with the population scattered throughout its impossible landscape?

But worst of all, is the fact that as with Katrina, we are left to ponder how poorly the U.S. will respond to major natural disasters that might take place right here in the United State. To any of us, seeing the state in Haiti right now, makes one feel that President Obama is no better equipped to effectively deal with a disaster than any other U.S. President. The proof is right now in Haiti. – Commentary by Arthur Piccolo/Special To CWNN.

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