We have had lots of time, we have many well-educated people, we are a wealthy country, and we have frequent major disasters. So why don’t we have the knowledge and guidance — at the federal, state, or local levels — to do recovery planning effectively and efficiently, either before or after a disaster?
California Looks to Update Quake Plans, Wall St. Journal, April 1.
But San Francisco officials admit they have undertaken far less planning for what to do after an earthquake to ensure that residents are resettled and buildings are reconstructed quickly. Rob Dudgeon, deputy director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management, said the issue was driven home by the slow pace of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, adding “there’s not a city in the United States” prepared for such recovery.
In 2008, then-city administrator Edwin Lee, who now is interim San Francisco mayor, began heading an effort to increase the city’s focus on recovery planning. Since then, San Francisco has tapped experts at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association. “We don’t want to lose our people” to other cities by not rebuilding quickly enough, said Sarah Karlinsky, deputy director of the nonprofit think tank.
One aim is to find ways to ease bureaucracy after a catastrophe, such as the city’s cumbersome building-permitting process, Mr. Dudgeon said. He said officials also intend to develop proposals that the city’s Board of Supervisors could approve immediately after a disaster, to streamline decision making about issues such as whether to demolish the remains of historic buildings and rebuild on unstable land—processes that often take years.
San Francisco, he said, is in the “toddler stages” of that effort.
So, here is why I posed the question in the heading of this post:
- San Francisco had a major earthquake in 1906, which is 105 years ago.
- FEMA was formed in 1979, which is 32 years ago.
Just how long does it take to get beyond the toddler stage of recovery? And who and what are needed to do that? Your comments are invited!
So far, we have 3 perspectives on the issue; please write in with your opinion.
- Eric Holderman’s blog posting, in the last 3 paragraphs, shares my wonder and dismay.