Tracking the Tropics
Former EOC dir. Kate Hale remembers Andrew
WWSVN -- Kate Hale: "Where the hell is the cavalry on this one?"
They are the words that made Kate Hale famous.
The former director of Dade County's Emergency Management calling on the federal government to step up in the wake of Andrew.
Kate Hale: "President Bush was down here. I would like him to follow up on the commitments he made."
Hale's appeal came at just the right time for people left homeless, hungry, hot and exhausted.
Kate Hale: "We were at a point where our county folks were just about ready to drop. They'd been going on for days and days and days."
County workers were strained beyond their limits: Still searching for survivors, distributing food and water, finding shelter for those left homeless.
Every day, promises of help were coming in. But, Hale says, there was no action.
Kate Hale: "The morning that infamous press conference occurred, the night before, things had really started to deteriorate. We had exhausted every effort to communicate our needs, to assess what was going on, to assess where our resources were."
Hale remembers South Florida being at its breaking point.
At the EOC that morning, I asked her what had to happen.
Many of us remember the reply vividly.
Kate Hale: "Those who have been elected, who have high positions in this community, in this country, to quit playing like a bunch of kids! We're doing everything we can. Where the hell is the cavalry on this one?"
Within days, help began to arrive by land, air and sea.
Some 20 years after those dark days, what does she think about what she said and how she said it?
Kate Hale: "In retrospect, I wish I had been more diplomatic. But I was exhausted, and in retrospect, I'm glad the cameras were rolling and that phrase that seemed to make a difference was aired."
Glad that it got the needed aid at the time, but Hale would later pay for those comments.
Man: "Miss Hale has been removed as the director of the Office of Emergency Management."
Despite being fired, Hale never backed down.
Kate Hale: "If I have unfortunately made enemies in trying to make sure that those resources were there, then so be it."
Hale believes Andrew's lessons forced the federal government to be better prepared for natural disasters ... though not completely.
Hale says Katrina exposed the government's deficiencies once again.
Kate Hale: "Katrina happened, and the system was not able to function effectively. It's the hardest thing about emergency management. It's keeping everybody ready, sustaining that effort, sustaining the systems that you invested in building after an event occurs."
Her advice: Every person, every family, be ready every year to take care of yourselves, to make sure what happened to us two decades ago does not happen again.
(Copyright 2012 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)