succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, April 28, 2006

The National Disaster Medical Service is a group of trained medical and public health professionals who are supposed to supplement local first responders during a disaster/emergency. The NDMS is designed to have boots on the ground ASAP and be able to operate autonomously for up to 72 hours, assisting with triage and evacuation. At least, that was their mission when they were still a subdivision of the Department of Health and Human Services. A few years ago, they were moved into the Department of Homeland Security where they answered to the Director of FEMA (and were separated from the DHS director by about 5 levels of bureaucracy). A January 2005 report quotes an official, "There are no nationwide protocols on what to do or how to do it...In FEMA, rules take priority over getting the job done." Considering what happened in August and September of that year, this quote seems frighteningly prescient. The report goes on to confirm the findings of an internal HHS report from 2002 - the NDMS was repeatedly stripped of large segments of its budget and poorly run, to the point that very few NDMS teams were capable of deploying, had the supplies to deploy completely, and were generally unable to meet their mission. This, and other scary government reports can be downloaded from Representative Waxman's website.

What kills me about this is we keep hearing that Katrina was such a disaster because local first responders were so rapidly overwhelmed, and yet they were precisely who most disaster plans rely on, at least through the first few days, before the big federal troops can be rallied and move in. Yet, that's exactly what the NDMS is supposed to prevent from happening. They were created because it was obvious that in any large scale emergency (hell, moderate-scale) county and maybe even state officials will also be among the victims and will need some assistance right now. So NDMS comes in with their doctors and nurses and medical supplies and 72 hours of autonomy and help out. It's actually, and I don't say this about the government all that often, a pretty good plan. If only it had worked.

[UPDATE - (because I keep reading and it keeps getting more outrageous) Managers failed to fill orders for essential drugs for four days during the immediate aftermath of Katrina because they insisted on faxed supply forms. Fucking bureaucracy.]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

As Amelia has often stated, the internet is a many wonderous thing, especially when it rather spontaneously and unexpectedly connects you to people from your past. Note the addition to my 'daily stalking.' Dionysum may be known as the director of one hell of a production of JCS, as that guy who can cram a totally unnatural number of things into his mouth, or just a recently discovered blogger who has interesting and articulate things to say about our current political situation. Enjoy.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to wrap my brain around my recent discovery that when it comes to emergency preparedness in general, and pandemic flu planning specifically, we're even more screwed than I thought. I feel like Sarah Vowell, realizing that my own cynicism still paints too rosy a picture of reality. Basically, the CDC and HHS both have separate departments with the stated purpose of emergency planning and response and whatnot, which would be ok if they, you know, talked to each other or were linked in any sort of way at all. Best as I can tell, they aren't (besides CDC being a division of HHS, these two departments still have conflicting/non-cooperating roles, as far as I can glean from their respective websites). Trying to let that all sink in a bit before attempting to work that into my paper in some coherent way.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"I don't think I ever would have been secretary of state if I had stayed married."

- Madeleine Albright

Monday, April 24, 2006

Princess. Not in need of rescue.

So reads one of 51 new t-shirts created by Jenifer Hoffman as part of a new line called Emotional Armor. (thanks to a colleague for the link) Hoffman, 36, created the line for kids and grown-ups as a response to negative, sexist, and violent messages she perceived to be on many kids' clothing items. Other messages: Happiness Fairy; I can do it; Write your own happy ending; Small body, big dreams; Constant reminder of extraordinary.