Update on Elliot Lake
An update on my previous post on Elliot Lake, which seemed to hit a nerve.
I got hundreds of responses and feedback from various sources, broken into two groups; emergency responders, which largely agree that the political response was just that; political and not motivated by any concern for human life — either those trapped in the rubble, or those trying working on the rescue.
The other group seemed to be largely made up of members of the public with no knowledge of SAR, rescue or emergency response. These people have a heart of gold in that they, like me, want to see the people rescued from the rubble. Where we disagree is on second guessing the motives of the HUSAR team.
It appears that experts from around Canada and North America are in agreement that halting the rescue was the right thing to do.
To quote Wayne Boone, assistant professor at Carelton University and an expert in infrastructure management
The decision to go back and use those resources again was no longer an operational decision. The decision to go back again, my point would be it was a political decision, for other than purely emergency-management reasons.
The rescue team and other emergency responders have begun to tell the story, in detail, of how the rescue was carried out.
I have deep suspicions that what happening today is pretty much what was going to happen when this all started — the HUSAR team stood back and other agencies stepped up and partially demolished the building in order to extract the bodies. To quote from the CBC article
Neadles described step-by-step how a major piece of equipment with a robotic arm was aided by two secondary pieces of equipment to slowly carve a path into the mall and methodically tear down parts of the building.
He went on to say, as I expected, that the perception that they were “giving up” was not what he had intended to convey;
These men are professional police officers, firefighters and emergency medical paramedics … that you thought we were going to pack up and go home. That was devastating, we would stay another four to five weeks if we had to.”
Politicians are doing their best to appear to have saved the day when in fact they are underfunding exactly this kind of disaster response.
To repeat — the problem I had with this situation was the appearance that a safety decision was being overruled by politicians. I don’t think this is what happened; I believe the whole thing was the result of some mis-communication at the Monday press conference.
In my opinion, the whole incident is a lesson in managing the media and proper public relations.