Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Georgia Chemical Release: Playing The Blame Game

Local officials weren't very happy about the Chemical Safety Board's report on the April 2004 chemical release at MFG Chemical that criticized the emergency response of the city of Dalton and Whitield County, as well as oversight by the state of Georgia.

The Dalton Daily Citizen, however, keeps its eyes on the "prize":
Several local officials have been quick to place the blame of the events of April 12 with MFG Chemical, the local company whose mishandling of the manufacturing process led to the incident. Of course MFG bears the primary responsibility for the initial accident, but targeting MFG while doing little else accomplishes nothing. There is no way of guaranteeing a similar accident won’t happen tomorrow, or the day after. That’s why the ability of our city and county emergency agencies to respond effectively is vital.

That’s also why playing the blame game is unacceptable. Blame MFG. Blame the city. Blame the county. Blame the state. Blame the feds.

City and county officials would better use their time by asking the question, why did things go so badly on April 12, 2004, and what can we do to make sure that next time — and chances are there will be a next time — the response will be outstanding?

Simply put, a failure to learn from past mistakes could cost lives. The public and our emergency response personnel — many of whom performed very bravely on April 12, 2004 — deserve better.
And they have little patience for the usual tired excuses employed by public officials:
Our city and county fire and law enforcement chiefs have a sacred responsibility to the men and women who serve under them, as well as to the public at large. If their departments are underfunded or lack key equipment to do their jobs, the leaders must make that case strongly. To do less is unforgivable.

It is fortunate that the events of April 12, 2004, did not claim a life. This community was given a second chance to get things right.

Some positive steps have been taken in that direction and more should follow. The nuts and bolts of good governance may not be exciting, but in an emergency it's the fundamentals which can save lives. What priority comes higher?