Hurricane Katrina. Heard enough? Seen enough?

No, I don’t mean the horrific personal experiences residents of New Orleans endured—and endure still today. I think we’ll all remember watching the scenes on TV with tear-filled eyes and dropped jaws. It was gut-wrenching to watch then and to think about today.

What I mean is the political fallout that continues today. It’s like no one was aware that a city had been built below sea level—or that man-made structures may not stand up to nature.

It makes one ask, “How could that happen?” There’s no shortage of people who have the answer to that question, and all those answers seem to involve more finger-pointing than anything else. It’s sadly humorous to watch officials at local, state, and federal levels exchange pokes in each others’ eyes with one hand as they play hot potato with blame with the other.

Three years ago, the now-deposed FEMA director, Michael Brown, told Congress: “Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management.”

After Katrina, scratch “may have” and insert “has.”

If there’s any value in all this, it’s that we’re all more aware of what could happen—and that we’ll have to fend for ourselves immediately after it happens. IBI columnists are among the many who’ve offered sage advice for us as both individuals and business owners.

Some of the possible scenarios local officials mention seem hard to imagine: chemical spills, nuclear accidents, mass evacuations—it all seems like our school fire drills on steroids. There isn’t much we can do but follow directions. In terms of a flood, as least folks will have dry land in sight here, a luxury the residents of New Orleans weren’t afforded.

Around here, the first word that comes to mind when we think of disaster is “tornado.” Tornados require pre-planning on a different level. When officials use the term “projected path” for a hurricane, they’re talking days away. In terms of tornados, it’s a matter of minutes. Hardly time to have a meeting or bring in supplies. In any disaster we experience, help will have to come from the nearest unaffected area. If there’s a brighter side to tornados vis-à-vis other disasters, that area could be across the street.

In central Illinois, we can say we’re proud to be the home of what must be the ultimate example of tornado preparedness, Parsons Manufacturing in Roanoke. Rightly so, a government web site touts Parsons as a “success story.”

The lesson—as reinforced by Katrina, Parsons, and everything experts say—is that we must shoulder responsibility. The experts tell us we should plan for everything that could interrupt our business—from a short power outage to an intersection-closing accident at the end of the street, to an unmentionable natural or man-made disaster.

Judging from newspaper accounts, our county and city officials are busy with their plans. As they share those plans with us, we can make sure the ones we’re developing or reviewing link up. IBI