The Myths of Recovery – Ed Blakely

The the worst is over in Queensland and Victoria. We can now turn our attention to what went wrong and how we can get it right in the future. But before, we try to get things moving in the right direction, we need to know what the best directions to go in are. As the Tin man said to Alice: “If you don’t know where you are going, any direction will do”.

Some directions provide false hopes and inevitably lead to repeating the same or worse problems. Here are a few myths that can and should be avoided. Here are the issues I suggest are the Five big myths of disaster recovery.

1. Put it all back together-she’ll be right mate!–It is tempting to think that if we just do what we have been doing and leave people to their own devices, everything will work out well. We feel the only thing government can do is get in the way. We want to get back to normal with everything in the same place. In fact, this idea is re-enforced by government leaders saying after disaster: “We are going to put it all back just like it was and soon.”

2. Just Fix what’s broken– putting in another dam and cleaning up will not be enough, no matter how tempting such ideas are. New Orleans had many levee failure pre-Katrina. If the levees don’t work in one time, more of them will not serve in another disaster. it is time to look at the fundamentals of what is causing and what will cause new disasters and make fundamental changes, as the Dutch have done, to deal with the problem or to recognize it can’t be dealt with.

3. We can do it alone–we had the disaster and we don’t need anyone form another place telling us how to handle our problems. We have plenty of smart people. It is true local people have a lot of good local knowledge but other experts may have more information and more experience–borrow it.

4. Property rights are first–our nation is built on the fundamental right to own and dispose of property as one sees fit-with a few rules. but how do we deal with property that exposes everyone to danger? who pays for rescuers and what is the role of government when the property right conflicts with the safety of the total community? We have to tackle this isue by making sure that everyone is re-settle in ways that benefit the entire community and without financial loss or too great a personal sacrifice.

5. Better warning systems is all we need–warning are good but the new storms are coming faster and hitting harder than our systems can cope with. Since we know the primary cause of the problems, we need to use the first warning by making sure natural systems flow properly and that new building in the hills or on flat land do not disrupt natural system to the point greater dangers are created.

In essence the trust is always the best antidote to any myths. so, we need to get as much information as we can before we act. Unlike Alice, we have to know where we intend to go

Ed Blakely, in charge of the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after “Katrina”, he will present at the Healthy Cities Conference http://www.healthycities.com.au/

Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th July  2011
Venue: The Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa NOOSA, Queensland

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