San Diego Wildfires != Katrina

The handling of both the San Diego Wildfire and Katrina disasters have had extremely different outcomes. The political shit-throwing has already begun as to why San Diego has handled their disaster better than New Orleans. While San Diegans have experienced organization, support, and supplies, we all know how New Orleans fared. So why has San Diego fared better? Most arguments that I’ve seen come down to race and/or income levels. While it is true that Katrina mostly affected less well-off minorities and the San Diego Wildfires mostly affected white affluent rich dudes, that is not why the response to the two disasters are different. Here is why…

  • Are people forgetting that New Orleans and the Superdome were essentially turned into an island? No cars, no motorcycles, no tanks, no humvees. Transportation is a huge factor (perhaps the factor) when it comes to evacuations and supply lines, and New Orleans had none. San Diego, on the other hand, has the full use of their highways and roads, allowing for the easy transport of supplies and aid, not to mention giving the populace the ability to evacuate in the first place. There is a line of cars outside of Qualcomm stadium containing supplies for the evacuees. New Orleans did not have this luxury. Unless you had a raft or boat.
  • San Diego has electricity, New Orleans did not. Katrina wiped out all electrical lines, but while San Diego has had some power interruptions, for the most part the electrical grid has remained in tact. Have you ever lived without electricity for more than a couple days? Try it sometime, you’ll get antsy too. San Diego hasn’t had to worry about that.
  • San Diego has communications, New Orleans did not. Katrina wiped out cell towers and phone lines, essentially crippling communications. If you didn’t have a battery powered radio you were fucked. After the fires, San Diego still had full usage of cell and land-line phones, full internet connectivity, and full cable/TV capabilities. They also has a new “reverse 911” system in place in which emergency personnel contact you with a call in case of evacuation orders. New Orleans had none of these.
  • San Diego had a dress rehearsal in the Cedar Fire of 2003, which was at the time was thought to be the worst fire San Diego had and will ever see. A lot was learned in that fire, and adjustments were made. Not to mention the huge budget California allocates to emergency services in preparation for The Big One ™ that will one day surely come. Sure, New Orleans had experienced hurricanes before, but they were experienced to handle hurricanes, not floods.
  • San Diego had Katrina to teach it how not to do things. Could it be that most San Diegans watched in horror as Katrina unfolded, and didn’t want a repeat? I think that is a big part of it. I think that many San Diegans put forth the extra effort to volunteer and donate, not because they are rich or white, but because they did not want to become the next Katrina.

So why did San Diego fare better than New Orleans? It’s not because of race or income level. It’s because San Diego had transportation, electricity, communication, and practice. New Orleans had none of these.