"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Obviously, we Texans haven't a clue as to how to get things done ...

... as evidenced by this from Jerry Pournelle's Steve Jobs RIP; education, space, proscription, and debt. Lots of debt.  On that page, go down a bit and look for the letter entitled "FEMA".  It's about two ladies that went out to the area where the fires were being fought and set up their own organization to help the firefighters.

Here are some stories about the Tricounty fire in Montgomery, Grimes, and Waller County, Labor Day week, 2011. (Just northwest of Houston)
Kenna moved on to the Unified Command Post at Magnolia West High school. She looked at what the fire fighters needed, and she made calls and set it up.
As exhausted firefighters (most of them from local VFDs with no training or experience battling wildfires) and workers came into the school after long hours of hard labor, dehydrated, hungry, covered with soot and ash, they got what they needed. They were directed through the commissary, where they got soap, eye wash and nasal spray, candy, clean socks and underwear, and then were sent off to the school locker rooms for a shower. HEB then fed them a hot meal and they got 8 hours sleep in a barracks, then another hot meal, another pass through the commissary for supplies to carry with them out to the lines, including gloves, safety glasses, dust masks and snacks, and back they went.

One of the imported crews from California came into Unified Command and asked where the FEMA Powerbars and water were. He was escorted to the commissary and started through the system. He was flabbergasted. He said FEMA never did it like this. Kenna replied, ”Well, this is the way we do it in Texas.”
Mind you, all of this was set up by 2 Moms, Kenna and Tara, with a staff of 20 simple volunteers, most of them women who had sons, daughters, husbands, and friends on the fire lines. Someone always knew someone who could get what they needed – beds, mechanics, food, space. Local people using local connections to mobilize local resources made this happen. No government aid. No Trained Expert.
FEMA came in and told those volunteers and Kenna that they had to leave, FEMA was here now. Kenna told them she worked for the firefighters, not them. They were obnoxious, bossy, got in the way, and criticized everything. The volunteers refused to back down and kept doing their job, and doing it well. Next FEMA said the HEB supplies and kitchen had to go, that was blatant commercialism. Kenna said they stayed. They stayed.
The upshot? A fire that the experts from California (for whom we are so grateful there are no words) said would take 2-3 weeks to get under control was 100% contained in 8 days.

I considered asking Dr. Pournelle for permission to reproduce the entire letter in this post, but that would be a strain on hospitality and, as it was a letter from another, that permission might not be his to grant.

Besides, some of you need practice at clicking on links anyway, and you really should click on that link I provided near the top of this post, just to fill in the ellipses.  They make for fascinating reading, and I've only pity and despair for those too lacking in curiosity to do so.

Addendum a few minutes afterward - Is this unusual for this area? Not in the least. See also MORE ON THE HURRICANE IKE AFTERMATH, from September 10, 2008. It's just the way we are.

Another addendum - Why is it "just the way we are"?
I was lucky enough to be born in Texas. But many Texans were not so blessed, although they got here as soon as they could. :-)

A lot of people down here are from somewhere else.  Houston has seen waves of emigration from other states, from time to time.

When I first moved here, in 1964, the population of Houston was a bit over half a million.  Today, it is well over two million within the city limits, and approaching five million within the metro area.

In the late 70's, when the rust-belt states (Michigan in particular) were in recession, so many came here, that a PBS special noted ...
 "over a million people poured into Houston, looking for jobs, and found them!"

During that period, it did indeed seem like the Michigan license plates outnumbered the locals.

Believe it or not, most of us did not resent that.  Some did (even we are cursed with a few complainers), but most of us saw those expatriate Michiganders as folks who, instead of moaning and whining about their lot, actually did something about it.

In the pioneer days, that was truly a big deal, as
  "the cowards never started and the weaklings died along the way".

Today's times are a bit less drastic, but even now to pull up stakes and move 1300 to 1400 miles to better your situation is very daunting to many;  downright terrifying to some.

Wimps don't do that.  To those of you who have joined us in that way, let me tell you that most us of have nothing but respect for you, are glad to have you with us, and simply can never get enough of you.  You enrich our state;  by being here and making it worth bragging about.

One result of that is a significantly higher percentage of folks who are inclined to fix their own problems instead of waiting for others to do it for them.  Thus, the fortitude and self-reliance shown in the two linked articles above are not at all surprising.  It would be far more of a surprise if they were not evident.

So, to all of you who have joined us from somewhere else:

Thank you!

Oh, by the way - I've seen a couple of other posts linking to this one, and commenting favorably about it.  Please remember, I'm mostly reporting on an original post by Dr. Jerry Pournelle (linked near the top), and all I've done is to use it as an opportunity to brag about my state.  Pournelle (or more properly the one who sent the letter to him) deserves all the credit for the points made about FEMA vs the volunteers.


Update - 07 Oct 2011 - This post is linked at Volunteerism vs. Bureaucracy in which commenter Politicalprincess_007 takes us to task for inaccuracies in the TriCounty fire incident and provides sources refuting the impression of FEMA being the villain there. See her comments;  she makes a very good case.

As far as I can see, it in no way invalidates the main point of the post (emphasizing self-reliance and volunteerism), so I'm letting my post stand as is; with this very important clarification added.


gcotharn said...

You gotta quit blogging these tear jerkers.

Foxfier said...

Hey, I recognize that author's name! Fallen Angels was my first exposure to the idea that there was an actual geek culture!


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