Saturday, September 17, 2005 | As the residue of blame dominates Katrina, true leaders gather their troops and ask: can it happen here; what kind of damages would it inflict; and what is “it”?

There are two categories of answers: those tragedies over which we have some control and those we do not; the latter would include biological (pandemic), nuclear, chemical, earthquakes and fires. The ones we have some degree of control would be none of the above. Mother Nature and terrorists are in league more than we care to know.

So what can we expect from a true leader?

1. A strong advisory team that knows the implications of both, including projected vulnerabilities, plus political implications. It would contain technical knowledge, communication and psychological skills. A leader needs to be able to call on true, honest experts who can come to conclusions and communicate implications quickly.

2. With this comprehensive orientation, an action plan – prior to any event – must be written, including which infrastructure and buildings should be retrofitted, along with a specific calendar plan.

3. Map and publish which avenues of escape or evacuation would serve the population best, under what circumstances, including train/trolley/bus pickup points, airports, schools, and car-pools.

4. Coordination of responsibilities among all hospitals and medical service delivery systems, including emergency vehicles and plans for school and pre-school children. All medical personnel should anticipate vacations, registering them so that they can be reached during emergencies. All key tools of analysis, like X-ray machines and MRIs, should be identified on a master list with their addresses.

5. Implications of firestorms along with prevention so that landscape can be planned or prevented as fuel for fires.

6. All backup and redundancies must be created and coordinated, as some fail or are incapacitated.

7. Complete transparency must be the rule, so that bad news is not screened out for political damage control. Trust is the key ingredient rather than re-election. Most people can be trusted with the truth and they will appreciate being trusted. Trust is as contagious as fire.

8. Community Web sites should be created in each neighborhood, with what to do in case of emergency.

9. Refresher courses should be annually available for adults and high school students, including first aid treatments.

10. Spillover places for the incarceration of troublemakers and criminals should be identified.

I’m sure there are more. Leadership should be elected who are also resourceful and action oriented, who take responsibility for their actions and their teams, so that all unanticipated events can be best handled. I feel better already.

Sanford “Sandy” Goodkin is acting chairman of Civic Solutions, a group of leaders who analyze San Diego’s problems, prioritize them and search for solutions, representing diverse points of view. He is a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and is a pioneer of residential market and marketing analysis. Read his real estate columns at

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