A false sense of security can be deadly

Northern Nevada was ready, but the Hurricane Katrina evacuees never came. It seems absurd that two weeks after disaster struck, the relief effort is still so disorganized.

The breakdowns in city, state and federal response to the hurricane and flooding must serve as a wakeup call to every community in the country. Natural disasters are a threat everywhere.

Almost 10 years ago, a rapid snowmelt sent water surging down Carson City's west-side streets, swelled into a Dayton mobile home park, swept through Reno and flooded areas that hadn't been under water in 100 years.

It's been barely more than a year since thousands of Carson residents had to flee their homes in the path of the Waterfall fire.

Though neither episode was on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, they still gave us a taste of the confusion and chaos that can result from a sudden catastrophe.

Perhaps the most damaging event for the region could be an earthquake. Should a major quake cut off communications, close roads and demolish buildings, where would you go? What would you have to survive?

It's obviously too late to start thinking about it when disaster strikes.

New Orleans officials faced obstacles particular to that city - the number of poor people without their own transportation living in below-sea-level neighborhoods. There had been quite a bit of thinking about what might happen in a major hurricane or a levee break, yet precious little was done to prepare.

When the worst happened, local authorities were overwhelmed, state officials were slow to respond and the federal government was paralyzed by its own bureaucracy. It was three strikes against the hurricane victims.

And the on-again, off-again airlift of evacuees to Reno shows that decision-making hasn't much improved.

The lessons here are many, but the most important may be the same one that shocked a nation on Sept. 11, 2001. A false sense of security gets people killed.


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