penta ([personal profile] penta) wrote2011-01-24 11:27 pm

Thought Experiment: Shelter 1.7m people


OK, so tonight I was doing red cross stuff. Mostly long-term strategic planning stuff for disaster response, of no interest to anybody who isn't a red cross volunteer.

However, there was this one tidbit that may prove interesting. As I put it on Ansible: "In New Jersey, population of approx 7-8 million, a "catastrophic" disaster is defined by the red cross as one where the sheltering of 1.7 million people is required. Thought experiment: For 48 hours (until you could somehow move people into unimpacted regions), *how* would you shelter 1.7 million people? (Before you ask, the naming of '1.7 million people' was followed by "And if anybody has an out-of-the-box idea on sheltering 1.7 million people, we'd love to know it, because nobody at the red cross or FEMA really has the faintest idea.")"

Shelter: Clean, sanitary, 40 square meters per person. Though the Superdome in NO during Katrina was (thank God) not a Red Cross shelter (it was wholly a city attempt), it was an example of what we're attempting to accomplish.

Thought Experiment #1: What the heck could *cause* that level of damage?

The original convo from Ansible (I am Nick, and Cheyan is[personal profile] cheyinka ):

[MOO] * Nick goes over notes from tonight. Oh, here's a thought experiment for people. In New Jersey, population of approx 7-8 million, a "catastrophic" disaster is defined by the red cross as one where the sheltering of 1.7 million people is required. Thought experiment: For 48 hours (until you could somehow move people into unimpacted regions), *how* would you shelter 1.7 million people? (Before you ask, the naming of '1.7 million people' was followed by "And if anybody has an out-of-the-box idea on sheltering 1.7 million people, we'd love to know it, because nobody at the red cross or FEMA really has the faintest idea.")
[MOO] Cheyan> hmm
[MOO] Cheyan> well, I guess it depends on whether there were any structures standing which could be used as temporary shelters
[MOO] Cheyan> standing / not underwater / with heat if it's winter
[MOO] Nick> I know of, ftr, no exclusions like "you must obey the constitution" or the like. I've been chewing on it since I got home, and I'm seriously wondering if you don't have to say "until we can evac effected people from the state entirely, every habitable structure now belongs to uncle sam until further notice, and to hell with your property rights".
[MOO] Cheyan> oh, that the Declaration of Independence hadn't altered the Lockean formula, heh
[MOO] Nick> (By shelter: Think (and this is normally used as an example of how not to do it in any sane terms) the Superdome in Katrina.)
[MOO] Nick> oh?
[MOO] Cheyan> yeah, "pursuit of happiness" is a lot more vague than "property"
[MOO] Nick> You mourn it, I (at the moment) am thankful for it, because if you had to respect property rights in a disaster that size...
[MOO] Cheyan> but, in any event, the government really can't compel people to open their homes, even if they knew they'd be shielded from 3rd Amendment lawsuits (and they wouldn't be); the Red Cross really shouldn't attempt it, because even though they don't risk *those* lawsuits, they *do* risk "we let these three goons into our house because you told us they had nowhere to go and they killed and ate our cats and molested our daughters"
[MOO] Nick> I'm not sure FEMA couldn't.
[MOO] Nick> Though it is a question I plan on pitching at school.
[MOO] Cheyan> hmmm. now that I think about it, I guess the government could try to say that eminent domain means that if we need to house 1.7 million people and 7 of them need to be in your house then 7 of them need to be in your house, but it's *realllllllly* bad precedent
[MOO] Cheyan> I mean, really really bad
[MOO] Cheyan> now, office buildings (w/ time to lock up everyone's computers), government buildings, courthouses, etc, yeah, the government should be able to say "no you have to let people stay in there"
[MOO] Nick> Note that any rational plan would focus on getting people out to PA, NY, anywhere uneffected - the thought experiment is how the hell you would shelter them between the time the disaster starts and whenever you can move em.
[MOO] Cheyan> restaurants, especially ones that don't have just metal chairs
[MOO] Cheyan> unaffected, unless you did mean unchanged in which case I apologize, and that's the part I mean, basically, any property you don't live in, the government can probably make you house folks in
[MOO] Cheyan> but in fairness, the government should open their own properties first
[MOO] Cheyan> I would *expect* to see churches opening their doors (in Billings, the overflow women's/children's shelter rotates between churches, who use rectories / daycares with beds / congregants' homes, for example, so if there's any setup like that in NJ, I'd expect all the participating churches would go active at once)
[MOO] Cheyan> and TBH sleeping on a pew is a lot better than sleeping on a bench in a restaurant, especially here in Texas where pews even in Catholic churches tend to have padding and restaurants often just have bare wood!
[MOO] Nick> Presume they did - I figure you could house 50k people at the Ft Dix/McGuire/Lakehurst megabase in vaguely sanitary conditions, offhand; you still wouldn't have enough space. I think I'm going to try and figure out a scenario that could *cause* that level of damage, then post it to dreamwidth...
[MOO] Cheyan> You should! The only two things that come to mind are *really* catastrophic flooding and conventional bombs, though
[MOO] Cheyan> and the latter would probably be directed at the megabase...
[MOO] Nick> I dunno that any conventional explosive could wreak that level of havoc. If you set off a nuke, maybe, but we'd need more data than FEMA will *ever* declassify to solve that.
[MOO] Cheyan> Oh, I definitely believe it could be done with non-radioactive explosives; I specified that because nuclear weapons have the further complication of "a lot of those 1.7 million people are going to die and it will be really ugly and overwhelm the hospitals; also enjoy plague"
[MOO] Nick> Yeah. If you hit the NY Harbor area with a tsunami, you might pull it off. Then again, we also are supposed to plan for earthquakes...and Northern NJ's chapters ran a drill dealing with volcanoes...
[MOO] Cheyan> An earthquake in an area not prone to them might be particularly catastrophic, hmmm

As that conversation indicates, you may imagine any disaster you like - I have personally seen bits of planning to do with nuclear events, albeit plans that were 20 years old. No indicators whether said planning had to do with nuclear strikes or nuclear accidents. I know of chapters in New Jersey that have planned for earthquakes and volcanoes.

Anybody on dreamwidth - and I do mean anybody - is welcome to participate. Doesn't matter if I know you or not. All I ask is that you not comment anonymously.

Once we've figured out what could cause a catastrophic disaster, we can figure out how you'd accomplish the mass care and sheltering functions.

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