Last night’s tragic collapse of 500 feet of road deck crossing the Mississippi river in Minneapolis, Minnesota at rush hour is yet another example of the fact that “All Hazards” includes more than just the natural disasters of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes and it goes far beyond the manmade disaster of terrorism. With night falling and bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, the bridge gave only a momentary creak as warning before suffering structural failure and sending more than 50 cars into the murky waters of the muddy Mississippi.
But Hennepin County, Minnesota, the metropolitan area that encompasses Minneapolis, is unlike most in the nation. Hennepin County has a multihospital compact for dealing with “All Hazards” disasters. While reports and even the governor of the state have used the word “catastrophe” which in disaster par lets means “loss of the ability to respond.” Hennepin County led by Hennepin County Medical Center and joined by the other hospitals of the compact however dealt with this tragedy handily.
Unfortunately, a setting sun and the speed of the water added to the submerged hazards created by the bridge structure itself did cause the needs (rescue and body recovery) to exceed the resources available (daylight). So, despite the fact that there were more than enough rescuers and equipment, despite the fact that healthcare in Hennepin County was truly “All Hazards” prepared, unlike 95% of the nation, the tragedy did finally rise to the level of disaster (needs exceeded resources).
As daylight now breaks on Minneapolis the rescuers are returning to help survivors and reclaim the dead from the river, returning them to their families. The nation should look to Minneapolis and Hennepin County, Minnesota, not only with a soft shoulder of sympathy for those lost and those who have lost their loved ones, but with a mind to learn how they dealt so well, so heroically with this instantaneous tragedy and maybe even a green eye of jealousy for the fact that they are “All Hazards” prepared even beyond their imagining.
In the words of a native Minnesotan and internationally acclaimed disaster preparedness guru, James G. Schultz, PhD.:
“Kudos to you Hennepin County and Thank You for all you do!”