Thursday, March 23, 2006

Final 296C Class

So this will be my last post on the Emergency Management Class. Unless I go to the way back machine and pull out some other writings about it that I haven’t yet posted. As I said, I wrote after every class so that I could remember what I learned. Too much information to take serious notes… Sometimes it was also better to just listen.

I finally gave my presentation at tonight’s class. It was on Transportation as the Cause and the Glendale Train Crash as an example of that. Truthfully, I am so glad that it’s over. I am very tired of reading about it. It’s interesting to know about, but it just seems to speak to our human conditions – good and bad, you decide.
There was a guy writing “I heart my family” in blood on the pavement. Fat investigators. No it is not like Hollywood… These guys sit around and wait for something to happen. The press, looking for the story… The press and the detectives alike have slow days. People dying, people injured; lawyers sniffing around.

One thing I do know is that I could’ve done a much better job with my paper and presentation. I started working on it too early I think. I had my spiel and most of my slide show done two or three weeks ago. I spent the last few days doing my paper. But I don’t think it was entirely effective. If you read about the event – please read it briefly before reading this next part - some of the problems/solutions I described and some of the places I failed are as follows:
1. The location of the event being both good and bad. While the trains collided at a unique place, it occurred near an early morning weekday empty Costco parking lot so accessibility was excellent and allowed command and triage centers to be established quickly. The local businesses also provided help and food/goods – Costco Pizza, Starbucks Coffee, Topanga Lumber. What I forgot to say or think about, however, was that this whole thing probably had a negative effect on local businesses – no business at all or business shut down for 3 days.
2. I overlooked the impact to people’s lives as the train line was shut down for a week, but I did describe the drop in ridership.
3. Did I understand if the event was SEMS compliant, or was an ICS structure used? No, I am bad at understanding that part of the events. This event was handled very well however.
4. I did point out that I think mitigations would be best put to redesigning grade crossings and educating people about them; and that, emphatically, this fellow Juan Alvarez could’ve been caught and helped ahead of time if it weren’t for our shitty social safety net. Again, it’s interesting to know about, but it just seems to speak to our human conditions – good and bad, you decide.
5. I think the metrolink railroad should be able to continue with their push-pull configuration despite litigation. I think they should be shielded from any lawsuits in that regard.

To make things challenging, the whole videoconference system that we use, as the class is state wide, was down. They thought the schedule for the class was done so we were not programmed to drop in. Despite all my efforts in PowerPoint (I had a semi-animation of the crash) I was not able to show my show. I had to read off on the phone – we were all on phone conference only at that point. They did have my printed pages though on the other end. Side note: next time I take a class at this place I am going to attend remote sites, Oakland, Monterey… Why not. I may soon also have to be taught a class from a remote sight anyway. Eventually, half way through the Pentagon attack presentation which was shared by two students who were as nearly as distant as possible (LA/Redding), the communications system finally came on. (These technical problems hounded us all night).

Yes, the next topic – 911 at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center presentations came along and overshadowed my presentation of course.

Everywhere I looked online about the pentagon attack; all I got was the conspiracy sites. Here, however, are people taking this very seriously. Unfortunately as the communications system was down the gal in LA didn’t get to speak much – but she was talking about how the perps got on the plane even after failing the metal detectors. Then the communications system finally came on and we got the second half of the pentagon slide show with the American flag background by the dude up north and his discussion of incipient Islamo-fascism that apparently none are immune to...

I guess the emergency response at the Pentagon wasn’t so good. A common command system was ignored. Many reported immediately without checking in and many units responded without being asked to respond. This is my fear of this event and ones like it. Too many people trying to show how patriotic they are, arrive and don’t pay attention. They want to be heroes. Chaos was the rule. Something crazy happened there that day – regardless of conspiracy or whatever.

Our professor closed the class by describing the World Trade Center Attacks. I saw a lot of pictures and diagrams that I’ll probably never see again. I still don’t know what I think about this event. All I truly know is that it is an emotionally powerful event that can be seen and used in various ways. I saw one of my classmates wiping tears from their eyes. I watched the slides intently this time as I remember I tried not to watch any TV of it at the time it happened. In fact, the first time I saw the thing collapse was at the Asti in Santa Cruz the following weekend, through a very thick haze of Saturday night alcohol. They seemed to play it over and over again and again on the TVs above the bar. Many “bros” were going to kick some serious terrorist ass. They were going to drive home drunk, in their excessive contractor trucks and wonder why anyone would be pissed at them in the first place.

Here is this event that is ingrained in our national psyche now and forever and a long time. Where were you when it happened? Did you feel nationalistic? Well, then, why not?

It was an amazingly tragic thing that happened. But, it felt real. It felt like life. Not knowing what would happen, who/where would be next. Everybody was nice to one another – well except to a few Muslims that got harassed or even killed. But, remember for that brief time when this wasn’t politicized and everybody loved one another and everybody made sure they told one another how much they loved one another for fear that they may never see them again.

It’s interesting to know about, but it just seems to speak to our human conditions – good and bad, you decide.


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