Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh My God Look Out It's Right Behind You

Today was day 2 (and the final day - thank God - thank God!!!!) of my emergency management operations class. Aren't you happy I took it? Next time a pandemic sweeps the globe, or terrorists murder thousands of civilians in the process of destroying a major cultural and historic landmark, or a tropical cyclone causes widespread flooding in Helena, Montana, you can rest secure in the knowledge that I am immediately able to tell you which unit belonging to the Planning Section of the Incident Command General Staff is responsible for tracking inventory on the mental health professionals deployed to help you cope with the resultant stress.

Was that flippant? I don't mean to be flippant. Actually, I have a high level of respect - reverence really - for the organizational systems created to deal with and efficiently handle large-scale emergency operations. Business-as-usual could benefit a heck of a lot from adopting some of the models derived from these systems. Open, non-territorial communication among government agencies? (Or even - I tremble to think it - different divisions within the same agency?) Readily-comprehensible means of ordering and tracking resources?? Large-scale cooperation towards common objectives???? I can has every day - plees?!?!

No. You can not has. Still, it's rather inspiring to see what public entities actually are capable of, because who'd'a thunk? Never mind that our class was taught by APD cops, who made many jokes at the expense of Austin's good-natured, environmentally-conscious, liberal, happy-go-lucky character. Describing the process for obtaining resources from higher level resources in the event of a disaster (oh by the way, the large-scale devastation in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was 100% the fault of local and state officials because they were not Bush supporters - just thought you might be interested to know that), one of our instructors mentioned that "Rick" must request a declaration of disaster from - here he hesitated - "Barack, now" - in order to receive Federal assistance.

"I'm impressed you remembered not to say 'George!'" remarked our second instructor.

"I'm impressed I was able to say 'Barack' without throwing up!" retorted the first.

Let's not make any pretense here - I sucked in this class. None of it made much sense to me. I tried to participate, but my brain kept finding other things to be interested in - including, at one point as I recall, the chemical makeup of the construction materials used in the drywall - and I had a lot of trouble finding anything worthwhile to contribute during my class table's hands-on exercises.

This is perfectly normal, and nothing to be alarmed about: I will not ever, nor would I wish to, function in a leadership capacity in an actual major emergency. Thus far, my job has been merely to disseminate information to the folks who are answering phones from the public; and this I can do. Maybe I have to make the occasional call about whether we'll order more port-a-potties. I'll leave the actual life-or-death decisions to the kind of people teaching my class, who have an unquestionably valuable contribution to make to society, without whom I wouldn't feel safe walking down dark alleys (inasmuch as I do anyway), and with whom, were I to be asked to go out for a few drinks and maybe dinner afterwards, I would, let's face it, not. ("Sorry! Have to give my cat a bath that night! So sweet of you to ask! Byeeeee!")

(Not that I would be asked. I strongly suspect that, no matter how much cleavage I don't show and how much my shoes refrain from slapping against my feet when I walk, I have the words "PINKO LIBERAL COMMIE SCUM" tattooed across me in six-inch-high letters that everyone who needs to can pretty clearly see; hence, I never get out of speeding tickets, never.)

I love what I do for a living; they clearly enjoy and prosper in their work: well enough. May our lives cross but once or twice a year. But, just for Karma's sake, I probably won't be drinking a lot of Hurricanes this weekend.

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At May 20, 2009 9:54 PM, Blogger Billy Joe said...

I love Texas. It's the Texans I can't stand.

Reading this reminded me of the stark difference between here and there. In Texas, "Obama" is a bad word. In most of Colorado, Boulder especially, "Bush" is the bad word.

At May 20, 2009 10:30 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

These last two posts have reminded me that I made the correct decision in not going into law enforcement.


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