340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Monday, January 09, 2006


I browse a few message boards now and again, mainly games- and politics-related. A few months back, I was skimming DumpShock, a Shadowrun board, when I came across a unique post: a gamer who worked as a relief agent for an American organization operating in Louisiana was willing to answer questions concerning the post-Katrina cleanup efforts. He wanted to dispel some of the myths surrounding the operation and give people an opportunity to hear from someone on the ground. We had a brief exchange.

(names have been changed: I am "Mike" and he is "Carl.")

From: "Mike"
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2005 3:02 PM
To: "Carl"
Subject: Dumpshocker wondering about FEMA


I'm a regular Dumpshocker ("Velocity") and I just read your post offering information on the status of rescue and relief efforts in New Orleans. First, thanks for the offer and I understand if you're too busy to respond to me.

I'm curious about reports I've been hearing which paint FEMA as uncooperative, understaffed and uninformed. Is this the case, from your experience? As a Canadian, my understanding of FEMA's size and the scope of its resources is limited. However, I always understood them to be a large, well-funded and well-connected organization.

Thanks in advance and good luck to you,


From: "Carl"
Sent: September 1, 2005 4:19 PM
To: Mike
Subject: RE: Dumpshocker wondering about FEMA

No problem Mike. I think I have a second to squeeze in an e-mail.

I personally don't have a ton of experience with FEMA, but what little I do have has been good. These guy bust ass in emergencies like this, and some of our teams in New Orleans are saying that some of the FEMA peeps have been working off zero sleep for the last 48-72 hours. Understaffed? Well, most government agencies are understaffed, and FEMA could always use more people, but I don't think they are in any different boat than anyone else. And the only cooperation issues I've had with them have been security-based ones. They are all steel-balls when it comes to security, and they would tell the president to go f**k himself if tried to break their protocol. I'll ask around, and if I get more info, I'll be sure at let you know.

From: "Mike"
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2005 8:51 AM
To: "Carl"
Subject: RE: Dumpshocker wondering about FEMA

Hi Carl,

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my e-mail, I can only imagine how busy you must be. I appreciate the clarification of FEMA's effectiveness and the role they're playing in New Orleans. Your description confirmed my own suspicions--the news reports of their missteps struck me as ill-informed.

I visited New Orleans several years ago and I was struck by the level of poverty in the city. From what locals told me at the time, it sounded like one of the poorest metropolises in the US. Is the infrastructure even in place for you to do your job? On the same topic, I'm curious as to what your job is, exactly. Is it co-ordination and resource management, that kind of thing? Please take your time responding, I can see in my newspaper that you have much bigger things to worry about than a nosy Canuck. :)

With fingers crossed,


From: "Carl"
Sent: September 2, 2005 10:09 AM
To: "Mike"
Subject: RE: Dumpshocker wondering about FEMA

Hey, I'm glad I can help. Right now the amount of misinformation spreading around is just mind-numbing.

And about my job, I'm actually not directly involved with what my company does. I do network administration/technical support, so I don't have a hand in the planning or consulting. However, I do have a handle on everything that happens here because of the immense need for support that our people require. For instance, I handled all the equipment setup and deployment for our emergency management teams, and I'm responsible for keeping communication flowing between our people in the field and our people in the office. Otherwise, I'm just like any other corporate IT guy. But I have really good connections within the company, and I've found that if you keep your users informed of what's going on with IT, they will keep you informed of what's going on with everything else. And our whole department is on 24-hour call right now, and we aren't allowed to be more than 30 minutes away from the office. So naturally I'm gobbling up all the information I can get about what is going on.

And as for us (IEM) doing our job, infrastructure doesn't really matter all that much. All we do is Emergency and Risk management planning, consulting, and coordinating. Yes, it is easier to plan for emergencies when a city/state/whatever has a good emergency support infrastructure in place, but we are used to planning around stuff like that.


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