Skip to comments.Boatlift [When New York could deal with a crisis]
Posted on 11/03/2012 3:41:44 PM PDT by Vince Ferrer
This post is a comparison of the response of September 11, 2001, with the response this week in New York and New Jersey over Hurricane Sandy, especially the reports of turning away help that was offered. It appears the leadership has lost its touch over the years.
BOATLIFT - An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience
"I have one theory in life, I never want to say the words, 'I should have.'"
- Vincent Ardolino, from BOATLIFT - An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience
Here are some excerpts from a scholoarly article on the boatlift, : Who Was in Charge of the Massive Evacuation of Lower Manhattan By Water Transport on 9/11? No One Was, Yet it was an Extremely Successful Operation. Implications? by Dr. Enrico Quarantelli and Kendra T. Wachtendorf.
The Coast Guard has far more legal authority over New York harbor than most organizations have over the territories in which they operate. But this organization, intelligently, made no effort to take over the evacuation which had primarily started on its own. Instead it provided as much relevant information as it could to facilitate as much as possible the new decentralized behavior marked by pluralistic decision making that emerged. The Coast Guard essentially played a supportive rather than a directive role. In this instance, the specific reasons as to why the Coast Guard demonstrated such appropriate and laudable behavior are being studied, but at the very least what happened shows that even organizations used to operating in a highly structured framework can change their operations to better adapt to a very new kind of major crisis.
By any criteria, the evacuation, one of the largest ever in American history, was an extremely successful endeavor. There appears to have been no fatalities or casualties in the operation; no vessel was involved in any accident.
It is difficult to see how the overall evacuation effort could have been different in any way in the positive sense. What could have been done that would have been more effective in attaining the implicit collective goal of transporting the evacuees from Manhattan? In fact, on the basis of our knowledge of how disaster planning is frequently resisted, we can say that any attempt to preplan such an evacuation would have immediately been met with objections such as: e.g., 70 persons cannot be put on a boat authorized to carry only 40 persons or on one not built to carry passengers; people cannot be picked up at high sea walls because potential evacuees will panic or fight one another to get on approaching boats; or, ignoring everyday marine and port rules and regulations will create potential lawsuits. Fortunately, in the actual crisis of 9/11, people and groups rose to the occasion, doing what needed to be done to cope with new and unexpected problems.
That’s because on 9/11, Republicans were in charge: G.W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, and Donald DiFrancesco.
In terms of evacuation, or even rebuilding efforts, you can’t really compare this to 9/11. As devastating as 9/11 was, the destruction in NYC was concentrated in a relatively small, concentrated area of lower Manhattan. Sandy’s destruction hit all five boroughs, including relatively isolated areas (as isolated as they can be in NYC) like the Rockaways. And that’s just NYC - if anything, jersey Jersey and Long Island were hit harder. It’s a much, much bigger area to evacuate, and a much, much bigger area to rebuild (and note that the area destroyed on 9/11 is still being rebuilt to this day.
The other major difference in terms of the recovery effort is that the area destroyed on 9/11 was largely a commercial/business area. Relatively few homes were destroyed. Here, obviously, many homes were destroyed. To the extent there are delays in the recovery effort (as there are always are), those delays are not nearly as visible when they affect a commercial district than when they affect residential areas.
Those are good points, and I am not claiming that the city should have been rebuilt in nine hours. What I am claiming is that in 2001 there was a can-do attitude, that felt free to operate outside the normal rules in order to get things done quickly. It was not chaos back then, it was a spontaneously emerging new order to fit the need of the time. Today New York has needs, but they are sticking to the rules, to their own citizen's detriment.
You are missing the big point. The evacuation on 9/11 was huge precisely because it was a business district. And it went off amazingly, because it was not centrally planned.
Even though this weak hurricane covered a huge area, the response is 100% government.
Private concerns are not free to come in and help. Disasters were handled much better before it was a government political opportunity. A few decades ago, there was a swarm of regular people, finding a thousand ways to help.
Now only certified, official, centrally planned Government responses are allowed.
With all due respect, that's just not true. The news coverage may be focused on the state/federal government response, but beyond that, people all over the region--within the neighborhoods and communities that have been affected, as well as others in the area--have come together, without government control, direction or involvement. Helping neighbors assess the damage and begin cleaning/re-building. Organizing food/clothing drives and fundraisers. Bringing meals to elderly neighbors in high-rise buildings that lost power. Private businesses putting their skills and resources to use in whatever ways they can.
You may not see it in the media, but take it from someone who's here - there are swarms of people, throughout this region, finding ways to help.
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