I was a FEMA contractor responsible for the ground logistics and management of over 1200 Motor Coaches used in the evacuation of est. 100,000 civilians from the Superdome, NOLA Convention center and other affected areas. I was deployed until December of 2005 with continued support on Transport infrastructure and transit rebuilding and saw NOLA at her worst, and best.

My Proof: FEMA Credentials / Base access

Various Images during and after the event

EDIT#1 Thank you for the amazing questions and interest. I have to run, but I will follow up later to anyone I missed.

Comments: 66 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

TheBigWaterBottle10 karma

Thanks for hosting this. How did you cope with all the stress during the disaster?

xxdanabxx35 karma

Not well - It was brutal to watch humanity just devolve so fast and so violent. Take away food, water, and hope - and people revert to survival mode with fight or flight kicking in to the tenth power. I did my best to complete the job and get people out, but at times I just lost it.

One morning we were launching buses to various pickup points and I looked over and saw this kitten crawling up out of the swamp - somehow through all the destruction and devastation this little kitten survived and I just started bawling like a baby. Every emotion just came to the surface.

My friend's heart couldn't take it - he had a heart attack in early October and died down there. It was, and still is tough thinking about everything that happened. Long answer - not sure I ever did cope with it, its probably still buried in me, waiting to come out.

kiwiandapple5 karma

So great to hear about that kitten. Did you or anyone managed to get to it, to aid support?

I'm sorry for your loss. If you need to talk about it, feel free to do so here or in a PM. Sometimes it can help to talk about it. Of course, don't feel pressured.

xxdanabxx13 karma

Found her a mobile SPCA during the event (they were amazing btw) and we found out she did indeed get adopted and aptly named - KAT

TheWrongFusebox9 karma

What would you have done differently, given ten years of hindsight?

xxdanabxx18 karma

Planning, Planning, Planning and running drills. We have short term memories - when things are good and calm and years go by without a major event, it's easy to forget how chewed up things can get, or how fast. I think there is some solid plans in place now, but back then - what a mess.

asicko6 karma

What was your worst call of them all during Katrina?

xxdanabxx20 karma

Probably the 1st 100 buses sent down to the Superdome - it was complete carnage in and around that area and people were in horrific shape.

Second would have to be a random bus that came back to the staging grounds around 3am packed with paraplegics and people on ventilators with battery packs running them - some random special needs facility couldn't cope and just loaded as many patients on the bus in hopes it would get somewhere.

csgreen2k114 karma

No real question, just wanting to say thanks for this. My shift supervisor was one of the guys in charge of patient evacuation before the storm hit, and after the levees broke. He's told me about the horror of his time down there. From his accounts and everyone else who joined him, I know it wasn't easy.

xxdanabxx3 karma

Everyone had a similar experience I think. I found it absolutely insane that guys from our National Guard Unit - assigned protection detail for the buses and just recently returned from Iraq - were in shock that NOLA was worse than being on the ground back in the Middle East. Just crazy what went on down there.

You don't have to thank me (but you're welcome) - just glad people are interested in the stories

B0dhisattva4 karma

How did you get the job at FEMA as a contractor?

Did you go to college? If so, what did you study?

How much were you making?

xxdanabxx3 karma

I worked for an event transportation company at the time and it was being in the right place at the right time. Katrina required the immediate mobilization of over 1200 motor coaches and as we had working relationships with 90% of the suppliers in the U.S. - we were called to manage that operation. Over the coming weeks the role expanded and by December I became a sort of SME by proxy.

Hermiesterberger3 karma

How much of what Ray Nagin was saying was happening in the Superdome was true?

xxdanabxx8 karma

The Superdome was a catastrophe. The unintended consequence of putting that many people under one roof was the unknown of who was in there. In the end, you had roughly 10 rival gangs housed in there along with the young, the old, the sick and the not-so-right-in-the-head. Days without power, running water, and not enough food, it was a horror show. The addicts that ran out of their drug of choice were the ones who had the madness hit first.

Threeleggedchicken3 karma

Do you think that all of the criticism that Bush revived in the wake of Katrina was warranted?

xxdanabxx13 karma

Looking back - it wouldn't have mattered who was in the White House. There was never any contingency plan, both on a state and federal level, to provide mass evacuation transport for the general public - most of whom fell into that CTN category. It was always assumed public transport could handle the volume and when it was to late - it was a mad scramble to mobilize that effort. This is why things took so long to activate - it was all being drawn up on the fly. In the end, once we got on the ground, we moved over 100,000 people in 24 hours - true testament to the leadership and ground support staff.

Silver lining - the majority of Gulf and East Coast States now have this planning and operational process in place so it never happens again.

jlew24asu3 karma

you may not know, but how much stronger are the new levies compared to pre-katrina?

xxdanabxx8 karma

fredbnh2 karma

What's your opinion of "Brownie"?

xxdanabxx18 karma

The Administrator of FEMA is a critical post - one that absolutely requires an operational background in Emergency Management and preparedness - and should never be used as throne of appointment via the good ole boy network.

the_alchemist_2 karma

If you had to pick one single issue or struggle FEMA had in providing relief to this disaster, what might it be? (e.g. lack of food, maintaining order, providing shelter, etc.)

xxdanabxx2 karma

Getting the Food, Water, and Ice to those who needed it, and getting those who needed it out of harms way.

The fact most of NOLA was inaccessible by vehicles due to water levels massively delayed this process. The rear staging areas were packed with supplies, but there was no way to get them in until the breached levees were sealed and water could recede.

xinthislifex2 karma

Did you have any interactions with "Brownie?"

xxdanabxx2 karma

None, was to far forward. Did see Michael Chertoff though - he was heavily involved

TinyFoxFairyGirl1 karma

Not sure if you can answer this, but what's the "worst case scenario" for the major gulf cities as far as where the storm makes landfall?

xxdanabxx2 karma

IMO - probably complacency by the general public, thinking it could never happen again and then choosing not to leave an area under alert. We have short term memories - and Gulf Coast folks love a good Hurricane Party (i was included in that group during Charlie)

oolallyndargoonanon1 karma

Is there anything you'd like to say to anyone you interacted with after Katrina, but you didn't or couldn't say it then?

xxdanabxx4 karma

It's easy to grin When your ship comes in And you've got the stock market beat. But the man worthwhile, Is the man who can smile, When his shorts are too tight in the seat.

Humor was the only way to make it through...

Charlemagne_III1 karma

What do you think about NOLA's current level of hurricane preparedness? Do you think we are more apt to dealing with future storms, or will it happen again?

xxdanabxx1 karma

I think NOLA and the Gulf/East Coast states are ready. FEMA initiated a program on the state level that mandated this type of evacuation scenario not only be accounted for, but planned, drilled and maintained.

TaintedLion1 karma

What was the worst thing you saw working after Katrina?

xxdanabxx3 karma

The worst thing was watching how fast our society could collapse. I've said this a few times in this thread, only because it made such an impact on me. Take away quick access to food, water, fuel and medicine and our system goes FUBAR quicker than you can blink. It does worry me how fragile the system really is and if you have a block with any delivery method of those items - trouble comes fast.

Timotheus_1231 karma

I'd like to ask something perhaps a bit strange. You see, im just 21, and bad news is all ive ever seen and perhaps most of the young ones in this generation are pretty much "use" to bad news and tragic events. Its hard to see just how bad the world really is because we havent been on this earth long. Older ones tell me things have gotten so much worse on a global scale. More and more disasters and also wars. I'm asking this because to me, if this is true, than it is a fullfilment of bible prophesy. "The Last Days" and soon "The Pangs of Distress". My question is not about the prophesy itself, but rather, would you say that this global trend from bad to worse over time is evident?

xxdanabxx7 karma

I think if you look back through history you'll see patterns, long spells of peace followed by long spells of unrest. This has been going on since the beginning of time and if very unfortunate however, I really believe the dynamic has changed with the advent of the internet, social media and camera phones - we have instant access to things that would normally go unreported and thus, not make headlines over and over again.

wisegal991 karma

If Katrinia were to hit the city again tomarrow, do you think the city would be better prepared?

xxdanabxx6 karma

Absolutely - Immediately after Katrina, all the Gulf and East coast states started planning process' for their Critical Care Transfers (CTN) that include planning cycles that use motor coaches to provide transfers at predesignated Pick up Points (PUPS) state wide that in turn move those folks to neighboring shelter states.

bananafone74751 karma

Were you involved with Sandy a couple years back? And how did that compare, from your point of view, to Katrina?

xxdanabxx2 karma

I wasn't however, I was part of Hurricane Gustav and Ike back in 2008. While the storms didn't produce destruction on a Katrina level, the new CTN evac process' were in place for LA, TX, MISS, & AL and it was a massive difference. Everything worked and flowed so much easier and most important, it was a smooth process for the people being evacuated and then reinstated back to their homes.

WolfessStudios1 karma

Are you Ham Radio operator?

xxdanabxx2 karma

Negative - I am a meat Popsicle

kiwiandapple1 karma

If you had the chance to change one thing and one thing only. With all the knowledge you have now. Aside from the time that Katrina hit.

What would you have done in an other way?

Also what was the most joyful memory during all of this? (kitty? :p)

xxdanabxx7 karma

I would have put more time into my education - i was a wingnut in my teens and twenties and only now do i feel like I'm becoming more educated on history and global issues.

The kitten for sure - super emotional, but so rewarding that we found a mobile SPCA for her during the madness.

kjagla1 karma

how would you guys organize after an EMP?

xxdanabxx2 karma

I was only involved in ground evac for the general public - never involved in any planning cycles on EMP. I'd probably go back to pen and paper

tall_fat1 karma

Do you have an ashley maddison account?

xxdanabxx4 karma

Surprise, I'm the CEO

PurpEL-2 karma

First responder? 10 years late seems more like a last responder

xxdanabxx4 karma

In the rear, with the gear

window5-6 karma

Did you see evidence that blacks were attacking whites at the superdome? Was there talk about such things?

xxdanabxx3 karma

I mentioned this before - take away food, water, medicine and hope, and people will instinctively try to survive anyway they can. The violence was a by product of the environment and color didn't matter - everyone was prey

window5-4 karma

".. everyone was prey ..." you mean there were whites attacking blacks?

xxdanabxx5 karma

I cannot stress this enough - color had zero to with anything at that given moment. It was survival and it was the weak who suffered.

magiteker-7 karma

How much do you despise George Bush and Dick Cheney?

xxdanabxx13 karma

Honestly, what was shocking was the fact that we had a major U.S. city in 2005 that didn't have a working evacuation plan for Critical Care Transfer needs - aka people without transportation.