Saturday, October 29, 2005

Are We Ready Or Not???

Oct. 28, 2005 -- In the suffering that followed Hurricane Katrina, and the chaos that plagued the run-up to Hurricane Rita, and even the thousands still struggling this week in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Wilma, the country is breathing a cautious sigh of relief that hurricane season is soon coming to an end. For this year.

But these disasters leave us asking about our ability to handle future catastrophic events, either natural or man-made. What would an outbreak of avian flu do to a community? Would health care workers report to work and care for the sick, or would many leave town, protecting their own loved ones? And what about a dirty bomb attack? If you think the traffic in Houston was bad in the days before Rita, just imagine the sudden news that a radioactive cloud was floating over a city.

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The hurricanes alerted many of us to the need to get ready. According to a recent ABC News poll in August, only 26 percent of American families had made a plan for how to respond in the case of an emergency (including a designated meeting point, a way to coordinate communication among family members, batteries, flashlights, a non-perishable food and water supply). But by October, and all of the television pictures of Americans waiting on their roofs to be picked up by helicopters in New Orleans, or sitting in their cars for hours on end in Houston, the percentage of Americans who said they had a plan rose to 40 percent.

American families may be getting the message, albeit slowly. But what about our community leadership? It's the state, local and federal officials who have the responsibility to make decisions for all American families. Tonight Ted Koppel will host a Nightline Town Meeting that will bring a much-needed dialogue to these urgent matters.

We are in Houston, a city that was both a generous host to the evacuees from Katrina, and an example of just how hard these planning questions are. We are at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church with an audience of Houston residents, including a range of first responders and community leaders. The panel of experts will include:

- Vice Admiral Thad Allen, US Coast Guard, federal relief coordinator for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

- Bill White, Mayor of Houston

- Steve McCraw, Texas Homeland Security Director

- Jerry Hauer, former director of the New York City Office of Emergency Management

- Maj. Gen. Bruce Lawlor (Ret.), former chief of staff at Department of Homeland Security

We don't know when we'll need to respond to a disaster or what kind of disaster it will be. But we know — from recent events — that preparation can help. And save lives.

We'll begin the broadcast with today's breaking news, the five-count indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in the CIA leak case. It comes at the end of one of the most difficult weeks for the Bush White House. We'll check in with Chris Bury in Washington, who's been tracking the case and the fallout from today's indictment.

We hope you'll join us.

Sara Just and the "Nightline" Staff
Houston, TX

I love this country and I'm a veteran as is one brother in reserves and another retiring from 20 yrs active duty. Something is seriously wrong correction- HORRIBLY WRONG as I watched this broadcast last night Ted Koppel asked one stinging question- After 9/11 ,the commission results , 4 yrs later now hurricanes Katrina and Rita disasters and $160 Billion dollars spent Are we ready yet ??? The answer is NO!!! My question is WHY NOT???

Town Meeting Delayed Relief 1

Town Meeting Delayed relief 2


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