Sunday, January 29, 2012

Florida public safety fail..

This is a horrible story from Florida and it has nothing to do with either Newt, Mitt, or crazy Uncle Paul.  I'm talking about the series of vehicle crashes near Gainesville. Florida last night that claimed the lives of nine people. Police: At least 9 dead in Florida in multiple crashes
At least nine people were killed in a series of overnight accidents in northern Florida, blamed on poor visibility from smoke from a nearby brush fire, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said.  
Most of the collisions were on Interstate 75, said sheriff's Sgt. Todd Kelly, with some on U.S. Highway 441.
The crashes occurred between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday in the same areas, he said. A responding officer reported visibility was virtually zero, he said...
The smoke is from a brush fire at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, he said. Darkness was also thought to be a "contributing factor" in the crashes, Kelly said.
And you have to wonder if the local authorities couldn't have done something different in response to the smoldering brush fire along side the highway.  They had to have learned somewhere in their training about how once an accident happens on a highway and there is poor visibility from fog or smoke then there is a huge risk that other drivers will plow their vehicles into the wreckage.  And the authorities knew about the brush fire yesterday afternoon when it was already creating a disturbance on the highways.   Brush fire burns on prairie next to U.S. 441 

A brush fire in PaynesGainesville has burned an estimated 40 acres and could possibly smolder overnight.
Park official Andi Christman said the blaze was reported about 2:45 p.m. Saturday and quickly spread in the parched prairie...
The fire in the open vista of the prairie became an attraction for passersby. Several people in cars and on bicycles stopped along U.S. 441 to watch the blaze and the efforts of firefighters.
To be sure, you could point out how hindsight is 20-20, but that is no excuse for the public safety officials failure to anticipate that which should have been obvious beforehand and employ some  preventive measures.  Police and fire crews should have either closed down the stretch of road altogether or at least parked heavy equipment with flashers and signs before the smoky stretch of highway to warn drivers to slow down as they approached the fire.

The accidents took place over the course of hours, between 11:30PM and 4:00AM.  What was the plan except to keep calling in more tow trucks and ambulances from neighboring communities.  This is the type of situation where the public sector aka  "the government" can either succeed or fail. When it succeeds, no one talks about accidents that were prevented.  When it fails, you have people in charge trying to blame the deaths on the fact that it was dark outside.

update:  Fla. officials defend decision to reopen highway minutes before accident that killed 10 people 
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Minutes before two pileups killed 10 people on a highway shrouded in fog and thick smoke from a brush fire, the Florida Highway Patrol had reopened the always busy six-lane interstate after an earlier serious accident. A sergeant and lieutenant determined after about three hours that conditions had cleared enough for drivers, but visibility quickly became murky again, officials said Monday.

NASACR fan knows that chain reaction accidents can happen on restarts.  Imagine one heading South on I-75 out of Gainseville after a three-hour delay with heavy smoke and fog across the track and no spotter.  

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