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ACTS FACTS editorial: 9/11 Mistakes Repeated In New Orleans

The following (and attached) editorial appears on the front page of the
October ACTS FACTS Newsletter.  The focus of the editorial is the management
of health and safety issues during disasters by the federal government.  The
author is Monona Rossol, President/founder of Arts, Crafts and Theater
Safety, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to providing health and
safety services to the arts. See also
http://www.artscraftstheatersafety.org/  The editorial was submitted to NCEN
by Lisa Goldberg.


181 THOMPSON ST., #23,	NEW YORK, NY 10012-2586	PHONE 212/777.0062
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October 2005	Vol. 19, No. 10



When the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, there was a system in place fox handling
environmental disasters. The system was called the National Contingency
Plan. Under the NCP, the Environmental Protection Agency was assigned to be
the lead agency, coordinating the activities of all the other agencies to
provide protection for the public and the site workers. However, EPA chose
not to take the lead. Instead, they let other agencies fight over
jurisdictions. As a result, federal and state safety officials stood by and
watched people work without respirators. And the Mayor of New York
encouraged individuals to clean up the toxic dust from their homes and
businesses themselves. Today, the numbers of sick workers and firefighters
is still high and EPA has been served with lawsuits.

To find out how things vent wrong, the 9/11 Commission was formed. This
commission looked into the failure of various agencies to protect the public
and to make recommendations to prevent these problems in the future. Central
to the Commission's recommendations was the establishment of the new federal
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). President Bush did not want to accept
the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Only after much lobbying and
public pressure did the administration agree to set up the DHS.

After the DHS was formed, briefings for safety and security personnel were
held around the country. I attended one of these full day events on March
17, 2004 sponsored by the Metropolitan section of the American Industrial
Hygiene Association. We were told by DES personnel that the DHS had on call
experts in various kinds of disasters. We were told that when the next
disaster occurs, the DHS would appoint the expert who was most experienced
in that particular event (volcanic, flood, hurricane, etc.) to take the lead
and coordinate the efforts of all local, state and federal agencies,
including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In this way, all
the agencies would be coordinated centrally.

When the New Orleans disaster occurred, however, the DHS, like EPA, did not
take charge. They gave much of the responsibility to FEMA. FEMA was not
equipped to direct all the resources and deferred many decisions to local
authorities just as was done on 9/11.

The public blames FEMA and various local officials for the poor responses to
the disaster when their anger should be directed at the administrator of the
DHS who didn't do his job. And now Bush has said he thinks we need to
reorganize relief procedures and appoint a single entity who would direct
all of the disaster activities. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

-Monona Rossol

Attachment: ACTS FACTS.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

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