The epic hurricane season of 2005 was a defining chapter in American Red Cross history. Five years ago, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma changed the lives of millions of people across the United States, and prompted a response by the Red Cross that was unprecedented in size and scope.
Even before media images of destruction and despair jolted the nation, trained Red Cross responders were already in action. Generous donors from across the country and around the world made it possible to mount one of the largest disaster responses in American history — a response that tested the limits of the Red Cross.
Since then, the Red Cross has reset the bar on responses to large-scale disasters, improved the capacity for response, and increased the availability of resources.
The Tampa Bay Chapter has ramped up its preparedness plans and has conducted numerous drills and exercises to ensure that all chapter staff and volunteers are ready to respond efficiently and effectively.
In addition, the Tampa Bay Chapter has launched a "Bay Prepared" campaign, challenging the community to:
• Pledge to personally be prepared.
• Pledge to help a friend, co-worker or family member be prepared.
• Pledge to help our community be prepared with a $10 contribution to your American Red Cross.
Perhaps the biggest lesson learned from five years ago is that the government and the Red Cross will never be big enough to do it all in every disaster. Everyone must play a role. The nation needs communities that are better prepared, with every person, business, school and house of worship ready to take care of themselves and their neighbors.
Families need to plan how to deal with disasters. They need to know what emergencies are most likely to happen where they live, learn, work and play.
Businesses, schools and organizations need to have proper safety and emergency supplies on hand, as well as staff trained in CPR and first aid.
Individuals as well as groups can be provided with the necessary tools to ensure that they will be prepared for any disaster. Training schedules and information may be found at www.flwestcoastredcross.org or by calling the Tampa Bay Chapter toll free at 1-877-741-1444.
Large disasters will strike this country again. The fifth anniversary of the hurricanes of 2005 should be a reminder that the unthinkable can happen and that everyone must do their part to prepare. The investments made in preparedness today can save lives and livelihoods tomorrow.
Gary Ward, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Red Cross
Drilling ban is no longer useful Aug. 20, letter
BP's gulf oil spill cost plenty of jobs
When talking about the ban on deepwater oil and natural gas drilling in the gulf, the executive director of Florida Petroleum Council, Dave Mica, says: "The only thing it has clearly done is send Americans to the unemployment lines and damage the economy."
Maybe he should ask the thousands of owners of hotels, restaurants and gift stores along with the tens of thousands in the fishing industry what the deadly and poorly managed drilling and cleanup effort by BP has done to their businesses. The Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling rig was built in South Korea. The rig was commissioned by Transocean and registered in the Marshall Islands. Any of the oil that is recovered in the gulf by the oil companies will be sold on the world market with no obligation to sell it in the United States.
If we really want to put Floridians to work, we should invest in alternative clean energy like wind and solar technologies. If we can wean ourselves from the oil industry, we will all be better off for it.
Well, maybe not the Mica family since David is a registered lobbyist for the oil and gas industry and his brother, U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, has received more than $100,000 from Big Oil.
Scott McKown, Palm Harbor
Although it brought with it a host of potential devastating consequences for fisheries, habitats and other natural resources, the BP oil spill also provides an opportunity to improve how we manage our fisheries and coastal resources.
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has long championed the need for a proactive approach to fisheries management. As such, we hope the heightened awareness created by the BP spill will become the catalyst to undertake a stock assessment on tarpon throughout the gulf so we have a good baseline for management, and so we are able to assess any future negative environmental impacts like the BP spill.
With the leadership of state, regional and natural fisheries and resource management agencies, including those lead by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, we can improve the outlook for tarpon and other fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.
Aaron J. Adams, Ph.D., director of operations, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Pineland
Washington must do more on jobs | Aug. 25
People aren't buying
The letter writer wonders why corporate America is not hiring and comments that the relationship between corporate profits and added jobs appears to be gone.
The answer is simple. Consumers are not consuming! There are two ways to increase profits. One is to increase revenue — sell more stuff. Producing more will eventually lead to hiring more people and so, more jobs. However, buyers are needed to buy — companies will not produce just to pile up goods in inventory.
The second way to increase profits is to cut costs and, since in most industries, labor is the biggest component of costs, the obvious answer is to cut jobs. Since the consumers are not consuming, companies have chosen the second alternative.
This is not political, not a case of evil corporations stealing from the poor. The country needs to get money into the hands of the consumer, not into the hands of the bureaucracy.
I do not know how to do this and apparently, the government does not know either.
Stephen Small, Indian Rocks Beach
Health care can help
Let me get this straight. The candidates all want to create jobs that pay decently, improve education in these jobs and make employees productive.
So why then are several candidates running against the recently passed health care bill that will send billions of dollars into Florida for health care?
First, some money will go to education of health care workers. That is good, isn't it?
Second, the health care industry will need to hire more health care workers at all levels. That means more jobs, which is good, isn't it? Many low-income workers who now aren't insured will get covered under the reform. That should overall improve productivity and help the poor — who can and should vote in a way to support keeping this in place as is.
I don't see the problem here. If a candidate is against the new law, he is against poor Floridians and lower-income families, against more jobs and education but fighting to not take the money.
So my votes are going only to candidates who support the law as passed.
Thomas Kolter, St. Petersburg
Like it or not: Florida should prepare for health care reform | Aug. 13, editorial
Don't hinder health care
It was refreshing to find this perspective in print. As a practicing physician in St. Petersburg, I find it unconscionable that our legislators have chosen to drag their feet in implementing the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. They obviously don't see the uninsured asthmatic who can't afford asthma medications and uses the emergency room for care of his chronic disease. It's easy to play roulette when someone else's life is at stake.
While there is no illusion that the new law is perfect, it is a clear starting point that will begin to do much toward fixing a broken system. The ACA will help millions of Floridians get and keep quality, affordable health coverage. By refusing to be proactive in making sure Floridians get the most out of it, our elected officials do a disservice to all Floridians.
It is so important to point out that it is irrelevant whether Florida lawmakers agree with the ACA. It is now the law. State legislators appear to be playing politics and the ones who will suffer the most are the uninsured, the underinsured, and the uninsurable.
Many diverse groups have come together to show support for this bill — Congregations for Community Action, Doctors for America, Florida CHAIN, and the League of Women Voters, to name a few. These groups represent stakeholders who are willing to come together and work hard to make our health care system better. Let's hope those in Tallahassee have the same strength and vision.
Mona V. Mangat, M.D., St. Petersburg
Few uninsured seek new health coverage Aug. 22, story
Not much of a deal
Well, I can certainly understand why few people are seeking this new coverage. "Obamacare" was created for those who could not find/afford a health policy. I'm 55-plus and soon to lose my COBRA coverage, which is $150 a month thanks to the 35/65 percent government incentive. The normal monthly COBRA amount, somewhere in the upper $400s, isn't something I can afford and if it weren't for the incentive, I would have had to drop my coverage when I was laid off.
To read that a "federally subsidized program" policy for a person my age would cost $773 a month with a $2,500 deductible — huh? What did the people who decided on this pricing structure think was reasonable? Plus I have to be uninsured for six months prior to applying? None of it makes sense.
Jeanni Bajenski, Largo
Some solutions, please
Don't you think it is about time for U.S. Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. John McCain to quit whining and actually come up with some solutions? We do need affordable health care for all, so the answer isn't to repeal the new plan but to fine-tune it. This is just one example.
I know that is too much to hope for. I have little hope as long as the current GOP leadership is in place.
Ross P. Alander, Tampa
A welcome change helps more veterans Aug. 23, editorial
Individual care needed
The editorial states: "The VA will need to protect against fraud by establishing a fair, uniform process to verify claims." Ah, there lies the rub. Posttraumatic stress disorder does not manifest itself uniformly, which makes it easy for the wanna-bes. This is a real illness, a serious problem for the veteran, his family and society as a whole, and needs individually designed therapeutic programs over long periods of time. There is no cure for PTSD, only learned responses and methods of coping with this emotionally disabling disorder.
But, because there are no specific measures, no X-rays or tests to definitely prove a person has the disorder, the VA has, in the past, taken the stance that everyone is a pretender until they can demonstrate otherwise. This, in itself, feeds the trauma already suffered, enlarges the paranoia, increases the inner rage leading to the vet's need to strike out, to make someone believe him.
So, in addition to hiring more paper-pushers, the VA needs to insist that their workers take a crash course in empathy, kindness and genuine concern for the military members they are processing, not just the cold pieces of paper.
J.D. Batson, Tampa