Living in the hurricane ravaged dart board for the past year, I have become a cynic when it comes to disaster relief and disaster victims. And I’m not happy about what I’m hearing about the problems with Hurricane Wilma. So forgive my momentary soap box.
Hurricane Katrina was not expected to suddenly turn so ugly, and the path of destruction was vast, much more than anyone expected. Yes, it hit areas that thought there were immune from such destructive storms only because that thought was based upon limited information. Destructive force hurricanes have hit all along the Gulf Coast. Thinking New Orleans and parts of Mississippi were safe because they have survived previous storms does not ensure survival of all storms.
And yet, in many areas where people were not injured or had any loss, people were begging for money. One of the women in the campground here was whining and complaining that the Red Cross and FEMA told her that they would not be compensated for their shed falling over during the hurricane. She told me earlier that the floor had been rotted for years and the mice were having a grand old time in there. That wasn’t what was important. They wouldn’t pay her because it wasn’t attached to the mobile home.
And then she whined that they wouldn’t be compensated for lost work. I asked, “What lost work?”
All their work tools and equipment were in the shed and now that they were destroyed (okay, wet and had to be dried off), she and her husband couldn’t work any more and needed to be compensated for the loss of employment and inability to work. The fact that she and her husband haven’t held down a job in decades is beside the point. She tells me that because she doesn’t have a business license, they won’t help her business.
“Just because I only do work for neighbors and friends, I’m supposed to get a business license and pay taxes to the government as a business? It’s only work for friends, but now even I can’t do that. They should pay me for lost earnings.”
Yet, over and over I’ve been told by residents here that it is best to NOT insure your property for hurricane damage because if you don’t, FEMA will hand over more money than your insurance company would ever pay you. “Want a new trailer? Make sure it’s uninsured and leave it behind when you evacuate. They’ll buy you a new motor home.”
I don’t buy it, but unfortunately I’ve heard enough stories to begin to think this kind of frivolous generosity by the government is true.
There is a huge fraud case in a small barely impacted community near Mobile, Alabama, where people are being prosecuted for fraudulent claims and receipt of thousands of dollars in aid money. According to a news report, John N. Brown, the police chief in the town of Pine Hill, said:
“We’re a poor county, a real poor county. When people see free money or free anything, they go berserk,” Brown said.
I don’t see how your financial level can be an excuse for poor moral values. This kind of stuff makes you turn cynical really fast.
Hurricane Wilma was known to be heading towards Florida for days, maybe even a week. Sure, many thought it would drop down and become a category 1 or 2 and not the massive blow of a category 3 hurricane, but they knew it would be bad. And these people are experienced. They know better. They get a dozen hurricanes hitting or brushing them every year. Florida is in the middle of the hurricane dartboard.
Work is being done in San Fransisco and neighboring areas that have suffered devastation from earthquakes to prepare the people on what to do in case of a major earthquake. They are told by officials to be ready and prepared for three to seven days, or more, before officials will get to them with supplies or help. I think that this training and information needs to be spread throughout the United States as well as all areas on the dartboard of mother nature, especially in tornado zones, hurricane alley, and earthquake grand central.
Florida, you know better than anyone that help takes time. Why weren’t you, the individual, prepared with food, water, and gasoline BEFORE the fact not after. “We didn’t know it would be that bad” is no longer an excuse. If the name “hurricane” is followed by someone’s name, or now a Greek letter, understand that help, food, water, electricity, and fuel will be a while in coming. If May follows the month of April, then you should be totally prepared for a summer of repeated evacuations and hurricane preparedness. Learn to take care of yourselves before you rely upon the government.
Honestly, we all need to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant. If we don’t take care of ourselves first, how can we expect anyone else to take up the slack. I have to admit that I am much more willing to foot the bill for people who stand up and say, I can deal with this, instead of people who say “Oh, help me, I’ll never recover.”
There will be victims, but let’s make sure that they were helpless victims not informed victims.