Make It So

If only thinking made it so.  Someone in New Orleans wrote in that city’s emergency plan that “disabled vehicles and debris will be removed from highways.”  Good idea.  Won’t happen.   Kansas City, Missouri also notes “inoperative vehicles will be towed or pushed.”  Good idea.  Won’t happen.

Brisbane, Australia’s plan calls for students to help in emergencies by limiting the use of mobile phones.  Will emergency responders call the students and tell them to hang up?

In Tampa, Florida, the “City EOC will coordinate petroleum product activities during disaster response and recovery operations.”  I note that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is a place, nor a person.   Will someone really be designated to “coordinate” rather than be in charge?  Coordinate may mean calling gas stations, petroleum companies’ regional offices, head offices, or refineries.  I can just hear the call—“Hello, I’m calling with regard to petroleum product activities…”  I wonder how long it will take to get to asking, “Got any gas and a tanker truck to send it over?”

Where will the fuel end up—in a gas station without power to pump it into cars?  

In Jacksonville, emergency plan writers note that “[v]ehicular traffic should cease.”  How—road blocks, pulling people out of their cars, spikes to puncture tires?  

Baltimore’s plan notes that “[t]here must be an understanding that non-potable water is not to be utilized for consumption.”  But there’s no indication of how to propagate this mandatory understanding.  

Toronto parenthetically mentions “[o]nce all relevant stakeholders have been informed…” but no indication of how to accomplish this tough task during an emergency.  In Toronto’s Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (serious stuff, one assumes), writers use the passive voice, which conceals who will be doing what, if anything—“[a]ssurances will be required that evacuees requiring either publicly or privately provided accommodation are not contaminated.”  I bet these assurances will be required, but how they can be given is not discussed.  

Sudbury’s plan notes that “[t] Community Control Group will assemble…” Good idea.  Who will call them all?  What will the signal be if phones don’t work?  How will they get where, and where is the alternative site for the assembly?           

Guelph suggests that citizens “[t]each your children—according to their age.”  Just a little more guidance might be helpful.

Austin notes how important it will be in an emergency to determine “which resources are essential.”  I bet a preliminary list would be easier to make in normal times rather than waiting until you’re wet, hungry, and have no power.  

Houston plans to use “[a]ll applicable platforms and avenues … for notifying, alerting, and communicating crucial information to the community.”  Good idea, unless an argument breaks out among millennials who want to use social media including “pocket” and older folks who suggest ads in magazines that won’t come out for a month.  Perhaps there will be a private pilot who will volunteer to tow a sign behind the plane, or even try sky righting.   I’d list the “platforms” and how they differ from “avenues.”  Houston also notes that “[e]vacuess should use service stations within Houston for fueling and minor vehicle maintenance… Other jurisdictions are expected to identify rest and refueling facilities…”  (Don’t they know now?).  

It’s fine to say “gas up” but the reality will be that this may take hours.  And with self-serve stations, there are no minor repairs to be had.  

Houston’s plan goes on to note that the “Private Sector has taken a leadership role in developing a statewide fuel plan.”  But we are none the wiser about whether we can gas up and how to pump it without power.

If only thinking made it so, we’d have excellent urban emergency plans.

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