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Saturday, December 1, 2012


Saturday, 9:30 AM.  324 degrees F, wind WWSW, light. Roof icicles are  dripping.  The sky is overcast and gray, the waters of the channel are gray, Madeline Island is gray, it is, without a doubt, a gray day.  The gloom is somewhat lightened by the whiteness of the snow, which is also melting in a rather gloomy fashion.
        We had an easy trip to Madison, the roads were good and Thursday was a nice enough day  that we stopped at  the McMillan state wildlife area near Marshfield and tromped around with the shotgun, but we found no pheasants (and I didn’t really expect to).  Buddy had his usual good time hunting and had plenty of treats on the trip.  He is a great traveler, and sleeps in the truck at night without any fuss.
Joan did Christmas shopping in Madison while I was at the Urban Forestry Council meeting, which accomplished a lot of work towards a five year strategic and action plan.
        The Council is a diverse group, and in includes two professional foresters from two different Wisconsin utilities.  They were both back from two weeks helping clear power lines and streets of fallen and dangerous trees on the East Coast.  They  worked nonstop.  This is the setup:
        The utilities nationwide have mutual assistance agreements and come to each others aid in emergencies.  There were crews there from as far away as California and Texas.  They brought their own support equipment, gasoline trucks and supplies and ate and slept in two hundred man tents (the latter services provided by sub-contractors also part of the mutual aid agreement).  Lights out at 10:00 PM, on at 4:00 AM, no alcohol allowed. All were paid their regular rate and overtime and made a lot of money.  The emergency expenses are spread out nationwide as a cost of doing business.  Hundreds of evergency response utility personell came from Wisconsin alone, and (I believe this is correct) 14,000 professionals came to the East Coast from around the country.  Both said it was very gratifying work as people were extremely relieved and grateful to have them show up in their devastated neighborhoods, doubly so when they found out that they came from all around the nation.
        All this is business to business cooperation, and works.  Whether the federal government has any coordinating role I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.  What do the people at FEMA know about utility work?  This would seem to be a mutual assistance model for other aspects of the nation’s economy.  There could be (perhaps there are some, I don’t know) mutual assistance agreements directly between cities, and between states.  What, other than monetary assistance, does the federal government really have to offer?  The FEMA response to Katrina was poor, and the response to Sandy underwhelming to say the least.  But you know the politicians will never accept a lesser or non role in these tragedies, as it gives them great photo opportunities and bragging rights if things go right (and brings on their blame game if things go wrong).
        After what I heard first hand about mutual assistance response I still have a number of questions, but the most  nagging question is this: why wasn’t this great story reported by  the news media?

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