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  1. #1
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    Car Free Lifestyle and New Orleans disaster

    Another forum blamed the car free lifestyle of the people of New Orleans as the reason which prevented them from leaving the city during the disaster. I also heard this same opinion yesterday on the radio as the host declared if the poor people "Only had Cars" the disaster wouldn't have been so great.

    Folks. There is plenty of blame to go around as to why this disaster happend in the first place but I'll take this one at a time.

    1. High cost of car ownship -- The poor people of New Orleans could not afford a car which is why they were living a car free lifestyle in the first place. When you don't have any money to afford a car, you simple do without. The spiraling cost of motor car ownership is leaving thousands without transportaton and I suspect this will get worse in the future. Furthermore, most of those cars would have been stuck in gridlock once the city got flooded in the first place as CNN showed thouands of vehicles underwater. Bottom line. There no proof at all that tens of thousands of cars would have been the answer.

    2. Lack of Rail Service or Public transportation--- The city of New Orleans had very little in the form of public transportation which gave the citizens little options when the disaster struck. Other than Amtrak, there is no commuter rail service leaving the city which could have been used to evacuate tens of thousands to safty. People think in natural disaster, a car would be a savior but when the people are too poor to afford a motor vehicle, rail or bus service would have been a better alternative. What was the first thing the mayor was asking for after the storm? Hundreds of Buses!!

    3. Lack of leadership -- It seems everyone is quick to a car free lifestyle as the problem but in fact was the lack of leadership. The Presidents budget cuts for the city of New Orleans prevented the Army Corp or Engineers from completing the necessary work that might have prevented the disaster in the first place. No Emergency assistance from Washington during the crisis, lack of evacuation from the governor, the list goes on and on. Lets put the blame where it belongs and not on the carfree lifestyle.

  2. #2
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    Man, I wish they'd impeach Bush for this and so many other blunders... but I doubt it'll happen.

  3. #3
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    How Amtrak wasn't used to move as many people out as possible is puzzling to me. Was Amtrak still charging to use their services? Why didn't the government set up contracts for the trains and buses to move out as many people as possible (as well as mobilize as many airlines as possible)? Did they think the hurricanes wouldn't be as bad as they were? Did they underestimate how easily people could get out of town?

    I have so many questions. Partly because my mom's kin (some of them very old, some of them sick, and a lot of them poor) were unable to get out in time, and now, they're living in deplorable conditions, and some of them we can't find! The whole situation is sad, pathetic, and disturbing (besides sickening me).

    Koffee

  4. #4
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Why didn't the government set up contracts for the trains and buses to move out as many people as possible.
    Drawing up such a contract, especially on short notice, would be difficult and require leadership and quick thinking. I don't think that the people in charge are very well equipped to meed those requirements.
    Some awesome folks who are working to give Haitians the ability to manage their safety and their lives:
    Haiti Partners

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    There are certianly a lot of questions about the first couple of days but why can't they get it together now? That's the immediate and most pressing issue.

    We know that the governor's cronies are under inditement for diverting the federal funds for emergency preparedness into their own pockets. Hopefully someday we will know why the mayor failed to fully execute the cities emergency plans and why he refused to use the 100's of busses that he had at his disposal. Maybe someday we'll understand why the governor botched the use of her emergency resources and is now trying to divert blame elsewhere. But what's it going to take to get her to stop blocking emergency aid now and get her to stop trying to delay the evacuation of people that are still alive and at risk now?

    Let's do what we can to take care of people now. Leave the partisan bickering for later or better yet just cut it out.

  6. #6
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    In our city, where I've seen numbers of 30% to 37% of households have no car the government was telling us to prepare evacuation plans a few years ago. They were telling us to buy duct tape and dust masks and store water too. With a storm you know what you're up against, but back then the government refused to say why they thought it was necessary. I'm not poor or a minority but had decided to stay to help the people in my building who couldn't go. I'll bet that New Orleans is the same way, what you saw on the TV and what really happened are two different things. Not everyone who stayed are criminals who went crazy when they ran out of dope. If I had to go of course I'd load up a bike and go but I didn't see the point in getting all hysterical about it. I understand the people who stayed in New Orleans, why should they go to a shelter to wallow in excrement and be assaulted and allow looters to grab whatever they left behind? Anyway the car free side of it is irrelevent, if the government gave each household without a car an SUV the city would be unliveable. There would be no place to park the things.

    The following web link has a photo of New Orleans school busses sitting idle, so the mayor had had busses he just needed drivers.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4216508.stm

    The New Orleans evacuation plan is here:
    http://www.ohsep.louisiana.gov/plans...pplement1a.pdf
    Here is a quote from page 13:
    "The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles.
    School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles
    provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation
    for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in
    evacuating."

    Was it followed?

    A few years ago I had the chance to examine an overview of the evacuation plans for the DC area. All the city busses were supposed to be used but I don't remember if school busses were to be used too. They were going to make all the roads one-way out. I have a feeling that it will be just as fast to bike out along one of the bike trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    How Amtrak wasn't used to move as many people out as possible is puzzling to me. Was Amtrak still charging to use their services? Why didn't the government set up contracts for the trains and buses to move out as many people as possible (
    It's a good question.

    If Amtrak would have moved thousands out of the city for free, it would have come out as the lone hero in this disaster. Yet, they did nothing to improve the situation which is why the President wants to put the service into bankruptcy. An opportunity lost.

    I went to the New Orleans transit web site and saw basically nothing. Other than Amtrak and the Heritage trolley line, there really is very little public transportation. Shocking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd
    Anyway the car free side of it is irrelevent, if the government gave each household without a car an SUV the city would be unliveable. There would be no place to park the things.

    The following web link has a photo of New Orleans school busses sitting idle, so the mayor had had busses he just needed drivers.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4216508.stm

    The New Orleans evacuation plan is here:
    http://www.ohsep.louisiana.gov/plans...pplement1a.pdf
    Here is a quote from page 13:
    "The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles.
    School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles
    provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation
    for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in
    evacuating."
    Good one.

    So there were plenty of buses but no one took action. There you go. I don't think the city of New Orleans could sustain a single car for each person since it's not that big. I guess it doesn't matter anymore.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I think all of us, as carfree people, must check within our communities to find out what evacuation plans exist, and if they are adequate. Will you and your family be able to get out if a disaster strikes your city? If the plans are inadequate, we must each do our part to force our often lazy or short-sighted city planners to formulate better strategies. Seriously, your life may depend on the action you take NOW. You obviously cannot afford to believe that "the government will take care of us."

    It also seems important that each family have at least one week's supply of food, water and medicine on hand at all times.

  10. #10
    jim anchower jamesdenver's Avatar
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    i think if they had bussed everyone out to the boonies, and the hurricane had passed with minimal damage, they would have been criticized for wasting all the money and fuel to do so.

    everyone thought they would leave the superdome, mop up a bit, and everything would be ok

    lessons learned...

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    I'm all for impeaching Bush, then we'll have President Cheney. I never thought I'd find so many Chaney supporters on this board.

    (/sarcasm)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdenver
    i think if they had bussed everyone out to the boonies, and the hurricane had passed with minimal damage, they would have been criticized for wasting all the money and fuel to do so.

    everyone thought they would leave the superdome, mop up a bit, and everything would be ok

    lessons learned...
    I just heard it would have cost the city ONLY seven million dollars to move about 100,000 thousand people out of the city by buses. All that human sufferage for a measly seven million. Incredible.

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    Haven't all of you really looked into the news and internet reports comming out of New Orleans and the Gulf coast, yet? I mean really examine the reports of not only how the various goverments failed it's people, but how the help is being distributed? And who is getting it?

    And let's move away from these thoughts for a bit. About fleeing the cities? I live in Southern California. Beside the sheer distance one must cover, rather questionalble public transportation available, and alot of class, financial, language, and ethnic divisions, along with the criminal element and you have even more of a timebomb ready to explode at any weakened moment than the Gulf Coast disaster. The car here is showcased more than any region is this country. Yet any little problem (freeway accidents, road rage, a few car breakdowns, even rain) happens and guess what? Gridlock happens! Nobody go anywhere very quickly-or slowly as the case may be.

    The only way out of the mess is to become car-free. I beat any traffic jam on my bikes-even the little folder! I escape any danger with the bikes. I can evacuate if need be on them. Just look at the news. Some hardy souls were doing that with-their bikes! The bike is far more dependalble than any goverment agent or agency. I rather trust my life to my bike than any other organization. These mechanical marvels never let me down when I used them. I did so in the Earthquakes of 1971, 1987, 1994, Riots of 1992, Oil Problems of 1973-5, and 2005, Ecomonic Downturns of mid 1970's, early 1980s, mid 1990's, and present day.

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    An Update:

    Bike flight

    Nola.com: "Steve Godfrey, president of Higher Flyers handbill distribution service in New Orleans is a bicycle advocate, community organizer and activist. He does not drive a car. His only means of escaping before the hurricane was his bicycle. He took off sometime Sunday morning and arrived in Baton Rouge Sunday night. For those of us who know him, we are not only overjoyed by his safe evacuation but are inspired by his courage, perseverance and can-do attitude. We need more like him."

    From:

    More dark days in New Orleans, but Pittsburghers offer hope
    Friday, September 02, 2005

    By Peter Leo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Need I say more?
    Last edited by folder fanatic; 09-09-05 at 06:16 PM.

  15. #15
    Chicago Cyclist ViciousCycle's Avatar
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    Bicycles are highly user-servicable whereas cars in general are not. If the 'transmission' goes out on my bike, I can jerry-rig it into a single-speed bike, whereas if the transmission goes out on a car, you're stranded. If I get a flat on my bike, I can repair it very quickly, whereas if people get a flat in their car, they often rely on calling a motor club or spending a lot of time trying to get the donut tire on.
    On blizzardy days when many motorists don't even want to get into their vehicles, I can lower my bike seat and use my feet to balance and to brake. In an emergency situation, I would find a bicycle to be reliable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by folder fanatic
    An Update:

    Bike flight

    Nola.com: "Steve Godfrey, president of Higher Flyers handbill distribution service in New Orleans is a bicycle advocate, community organizer and activist. He does not drive a car. His only means of escaping before the hurricane was his bicycle. He took off sometime Sunday morning and arrived in Baton Rouge Sunday night. For those of us who know him, we are not only overjoyed by his safe evacuation but are inspired by his courage, perseverance and can-do attitude. We need more like him."

    From:

    More dark days in New Orleans, but Pittsburghers offer hope
    Friday, September 02, 2005

    By Peter Leo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Need I say more?

    Good find.

  17. #17
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdenver
    i think if they had bussed everyone out to the boonies, and the hurricane had passed with minimal damage, they would have been criticized for wasting all the money and fuel to do so.

    everyone thought they would leave the superdome, mop up a bit, and everything would be ok
    Yeah, can you imagine being the person charged with coordinating the bussing of 100,000 people on a couple of day's notice? 1000-2000 busses and drivers - drivers imported from who-knows-where - and at least that many people required for security and logistics. Then where do you take them that will be safe and adequately prepared to receive them? You'd be lucky if you could load half of them in time to depart.
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  18. #18
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkrownd
    Yeah, can you imagine being the person charged with coordinating the bussing of 100,000 people on a couple of day's notice? 1000-2000 busses and drivers - drivers imported from who-knows-where - and at least that many people required for security and logistics. Then where do you take them that will be safe and adequately prepared to receive them? You'd be lucky if you could load half of them in time to depart.
    Very good points. But OTOH....
    We have learned that many people would not have left, even if they could have, so the actual number of evacuees to be bussed would be something less than 100,000.

    Also, THEY DIDN'T EVEN TRY TO GET THOSE PEOPLE OUT. They were totally unprepared, even though "everybody" knew that a hurricane like Katrina would eventually hit the region. That is the real crime, IMO, overshadowing even the slow response after the hurricane.

    These were carfree people who were left behind, in some sense our brothers and sisters.

  19. #19
    Fatties Fit Fine carless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    I have so many questions. Partly because my mom's kin (some of them very old, some of them sick, and a lot of them poor) were unable to get out in time, and now, they're living in deplorable conditions, and some of them we can't find! The whole situation is sad, pathetic, and disturbing (besides sickening me).
    Koffee
    I think the forum users share your anxiety, although (in my case) not in such a personal way.

    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown
    How Amtrak wasn't used to move as many people out as possible is puzzling to me. Was Amtrak still charging to use their services? Why didn't the government set up contracts for the trains and buses to move out as many people as possible (as well as mobilize as many airlines as possible)? Did they think the hurricanes wouldn't be as bad as they were? Did they underestimate how easily people could get out of town?
    I don't mean to go off on a rant....
    I believe citizens and the government put their priorities on things they think are important. I find myself befuddled with the energy we as a nation, put into enriching our personal self at the expense of others.
    There is far more discussion centered on $, than the deeper questions of race and poverty in New Orleans. How many decisions were based on fear of going into a black neighborhood and providing emergency services? We can invade 2 countries, but can't find the Convention Center. I think we could spend $500 million for an safe evacuation center and let them play football in it.
    To your original question, I think nobody viewed evacuation of those without a car important. I think the general view, (aside from NYC, SF) is without wheels, you have no status.

  20. #20
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carless
    I think the forum users share your anxiety, although (in my case) not in such a personal way.


    I don't mean to go off on a rant....
    I believe citizens and the government put their priorities on things they think are important. I find myself befuddled with the energy we as a nation, put into enriching our personal self at the expense of others.
    There is far more discussion centered on $, than the deeper questions of race and poverty in New Orleans. How many decisions were based on fear of going into a black neighborhood and providing emergency services? We can invade 2 countries, but can't find the Convention Center. I think we could spend $500 million for an safe evacuation center and let them play football in it.
    To your original question, I think nobody viewed evacuation of those without a car important. I think the general view, (aside from NYC, SF) is without wheels, you have no status.
    I think you are absolutely right. Nobody cared about those people. They were left behind long before Katrina. As soon as the hoopla dies down, we will go back to not caring about them again.

    Koffee, I hope you have had good news about your people by now. My thoughts are with you, and them.

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    Here's a good article that confirms what I stated in my original post that inadequate public transportation was an important factor in so many people being trapped during the disaster and not the car free lifestyle. The author who lives in New Orleans was surprised to find that 30 percent of the population are carless but this would not be a problem if the city had a transit system capable of moving thousands in a crisis. I suspect as transportation by motorcar gets more expensive with escalating gas prices, we will find more people living car free which makes public transportation even more important in the near future.

    Have you noticed those who don't have motor transport are called "car less" which is a negative term in my opinion. The term "car less" is ment to project an image of poverty. Seriously. I do not consider myself "car less" but "CAR FREE" as I'm no longer a slave to high gas prices, monthly payments, insurance, tolls, tickets, maintenance and repairs.

    OP-ED: Car-less in the Eye of Katrina
    Infrastructure | North America | Op-Ed
    6 September, 2005 - 5:00am
    Author: John Renne

    The reason so many lives are in jeopardy from Hurricane Katrina is a result of our extreme dependence on cars and the lack of planning for public transportation, both for regular use and for emergencies, writes John Renne in this week's Planetizen Op-Ed. Renne, a professor at the University of New Orleans, evacuated just days before the hurricane hit.

    Mass chaos. A storm of biblical proportions. Hell on earth. These are just a few accounts used by the media to describe the scene in the hours and days after Hurricane Katrina. As I write this, I am refugee in Texas just days after the storm. There are approximately 100,000 people stranded in New Orleans hoping for transport out of the City. An important question not discussed by the media is why so many people were left behind? The reason so many lives are in jeopardy is a result of our extreme dependence on cars and the lack of planning for public transportation, both for regular use and for emergencies.

    A brief background about my short experience in Nawlins

    My wife and I moved to New Orleans on August 10, 2005. I was hired by the College of Urban and Public Affairs to help launch a new program in transportation studies at the University of New Orleans (UNO). Upon finding an apartment in the Lower Garden District, I navigated the public transportation system for the first two weeks of my job traveling about one hour in each direction to and from work – a journey that only takes about 20 minutes by car. The actual travel time only takes about 30 minutes on transit but each day I would spend up to 35 minutes in each direction waiting for a transfer, which was only supposed to take about 10 minutes.

    It was clear very quickly that most middle class locals have long abandoned the transit system in the Big Easy. I should note that last year the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) expanded its streetcar line down Canal Street. This is a positive step forward but only a small band-aid in attempting to revive a transit system mostly used by tourists and those with little or no choice.

    The poorest in New Orleans rely on the transit system for their travel needs. According to the US Census, in 2000, an astonishing 27 percent of households did not own a vehicle. Not surprisingly, 27 percent of households in New Orleans are also below the poverty line. This translates to approximately 120,000 residents that have little choice in their travel plans outside of walking, cycling, or using public transport. One would assume that a city in danger of hurricanes would have a plan to evacuate the poorest third of its residents by using buses and trains. Over the past year, there has been a massive effort to educate the citizenry about the contra-flow highway lanes. The threat of hurricanes in New Orleans is not new, but to the best of my knowledge, no plans were ever created to evacuate residents who do not have access to cars.

    A mass exodus

    On Saturday morning the phone rang – the big one is coming. Being carless (but with means to rent a car), I called around to find a rental, and sure enough several companies were already sold out. We were lucky and found a car, but many were not so fortunate. Most carless residents in New Orleans could not have afforded a rental car even if one had been available. Despite taking 5 hours to drive to Baton Rouge, the contra-flow highway evacuation plan worked well. Everyone fortunate enough to have a car was able to leave.

    During the long ride out, we listened to several local radio stations. I was astonished that no information was available to evacuate people without access to a car. I even called a radio station and asked the DJ why no information was being given for those without cars. A few minutes later, the station announced that all residents without the ability to leave must go to the Superdome for shelter – this was their plan for the carless.

    Sunday came and still there was no announcement to evacuate residents without cars– the Superdome was still the only answer. Around noon on Sunday, I called the local ABC news station to ask if there was anything that they could do to pressure the governor and mayor to use public transportation to evacuate those without cars. The news station told me that Amtrak had stopped service on Saturday and the mayor had just announced that some buses would transport residents out of the City. In my view, this was a little too late.

    It is my understanding that RTA has the capacity on its buses to evacuate approximately 25,000 people per day. Had a plan been in place, they might have been able to transport 50,000 or more people out of the City before the storm hit. Had a good plan been in place, school buses and trains could have probably evacuated the majority of the 100,000 or so tourists and residents now stranded in the City.

    My intent of this story is not to point fingers at the RTA or the City of New Orleans. Over the next several weeks and months we will do a lot of learning about how to minimize the damage of future disasters which unfortunately are inevitable. Part of this learning should include mandatory evacuation plans for all major cities that take into account the use of public transportation to efficiently evacuate those with and without cars.

    America needs to take public transportation seriously, not only when things are going smoothly, but also for evacuation from natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Public transit was essential in saving lives as well as the economy of New York during and after September 11th. It could have helped save lives New Orleans but because we never took it seriously, 100,000 people are in jeopardy today.

    When we rebuild New Orleans, we need to create a transit system that not only serves the poor but everyone. This system needs to efficiently move people around the City and in the case of another hurricane, it should be an integral part of an evacuation strategy. I think all cities could benefit from the learning that will take place in New Orleans. After all, have you ever asked if your transit agency has a plan to evacuate the carless in your city?

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    John L. Renne is an Assistant Professor and Associate Director or the Maritime and Intermodal Transportation Center at the College of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans. He also teaches the Planetizen course, PLAN-215: Sustainable Urban Development, Smart Growth, and Transit Oriented Development

  22. #22
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    enough said.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Steve -- thanks for posting that article. It says a lot not only about New Orleans, but about the state of transportation in almost all of of our cities. Kinda scary!

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rs_woods
    enough said.
    I'm not sure I get your point, but surely you noticed that the author of the article was from New Orleans?

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    The New Orleans flooding was a dramatic failure at all levels of government: federal, state, and city. New Orleans also had a large and recalcitrant criminal population, a larger segment of disaffected urban poor, and a civic climate of crime and despair that made the aftermath a lot nastier than it would have been in nearly any other city.

    Still, I wonder why so many people on this forum who have boundless enthusiasm for government regulation-- banning S.U.V.'s, marching us all into "planned" communities in inner cities, bike racks, helmet police, food police, the Kyoto protocol, tax, tax, tax, and more tax-- don't draw the obvious lesson. Reliance on government should be avoided whenever possible. Though perhaps some people will choose to delude themselves that the New Orleans city government, and the Louisiana state government, would have uncorruptable and efficient if only a Democrat were in the White House, surely most people have drawn the obvious lessons about suspicion of government planning in any form.

    At any rate, whatever the broader political lessons here, surely it's obvious that as individuals you all should prepare to handle disasters without government assistance. If you don't have several days of clean water stored at home, get a $4 container at WalMart and store some. Keep a few flashlights handy with lots of batteries. Have enough canned food on hand to feed your household for a week. Keep important documents in a centralized location for quick removal. You can add camping equipment as you desire, a small generator, perhaps, or one of those large battery-plus-inverter power sources. Warm clothing, blankets, first aid supplies, are cheap additions to a disaster kit. If anyone would have been uncomfortable in the neighborhoods of New Orleans after the flooding without a firearm, he can draw the obvious conclusion there, too.

    The point is that, whatever else might be true, nearly all of the people who were herded into the Superdome neglected even the most obvious preparations, despite having lived all of their lives under the obvious danger of flooding. Don't let that be you.

    Finally, plan carefully to avoid living in some Ramallah-like refugee camp. If government officials tell you to leave your area and assemble in some football field, or in a tent city, are you going to go? Would anyone? I would have tried to swim through the toxic water and hitchhike before I would have gone to some refugee assembly are in New Orleans, even before anyone knew for sure what the Superdome was like, but I'm the suspicious type. Now that we've seen just how well prepared we can expect our rulers to be to "take care of us" in a disaster, there's no excuse for anyone.

    Government nowadays relies heavily on the patronizing illusion that its job is to protect us childlike charges from a host of risks, petty to grave. But bureaucrats can't alter the weather, and the mayor is going to sleep in his guarded mansion the day after your community is destroyed whether you get out or not. Perhaps, then, the New Orleans disaster is a reminder for the citizenry to grow up.

    At any rate, a bicycle is a decent bug-out vehicle in some circumstances. A crowded urban area is the place that comes to mind first. You can zip through standstill motorized traffic. And, relevantly to recent events, most bicycles can be floated on a pair of inner tubes. So, you have a highly portable vehicle that can be used to escape just about any nightmare urban scenario.

    A car with a full tank would still be preferable in most cases, but there would be no beating a bike in some cases, yes.
    Last edited by Merriwether; 09-12-05 at 01:10 AM.

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