From CNN Presents: CNN Security Watch: Lessons of Hurricane Katrina
FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT....But none of these scenarios, none, included the kind of civil unrest we saw in New Orleans or the disappearance of about a third of its police force, events so dramatic that for a time lawlessness and anarchy framed the Katrina story around the world. And of course, in New Orleans itself.
SESNO: New Orleans is forcing many in the homeland security and emergency management business to rethink how they train, plan and prepare.
ELLEN GORDON, NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL: Having the disaster victims themselves turn on the first responders isn't necessarily something that we've discussed and talked about in the past at any length.
SESNO: Ellen Gordon is a former emergency management director from Iowa. She led the state's efforts to recover from the disastrous floods there in 1993. Now she travels the country as part of a team from the Naval Postgraduate School, teaching governors, homeland security officials and first responders.
She says there's not been a lot of focus on how social breakdown plays out in a disaster.
GORDON: But I believe now that there will be many of us that will say we've got to take time out and discuss this and say, are we prepared to respond to this type of situation in the future.
SESNO (on camera): Still, the training manual itself may need rewriting. The Department of Homeland Security's own 15 planning scenarios from nuclear terror attack to Category 5 hurricane barely mentions serious civil unrest or the possibility that significant numbers of first responders can't or won't respond.
When I have thought about possible disasters, such as a dirty bomb attack or outbreak of smallpox in an American city, the very FIRST thing I thought about is the chaos and disorder that would result from a panicked public trying to get out of the affected area. In either scenario, one would think a first action would be to contain people in the affected area so as not to spread contamination or disease, probably necessitating declaration of martial law. Just how do you think people forced to stay would react to that? Think about it. Do you really think Americans would passively accept orders to remain in contaminated areas or would they pack up their SUVs and make every attempt to flee?I dare say they would be storming the barricades to get the hell out and they wouldn't be polite about it. They would turn on whomever blocked their access to safety.
How on Earth could professional planners not foresee this scenario unfolding? How could they not envision this happening and plan on how they would deal with it? Homeland Security faces an Accountability Moment and we need many, many answers to some very basic questions....starting with why aren't they even asking the most obvious and basic questions to begin with?