Hawaii’s Attorney General announced a formal review of decisions made prior to and during the Maui fires. It’s a reasonable and necessary procedure but talking head commentators and some politicians have waded in with accusatory questions looking for fault and blame. Such questions are more than inappropriate, they are hurtfully ignorant.
Reviews are needed to find out what happened from those who were directly involved and not to find fault or blame. It’s not an easy task. Each person from the first one to be aware of an unfolding incident to the last person involved in decision making has a fractional picture of what happened. Each had a particular job to do. Each saw or heard something, thought something, felt something, and did something. They need to tell their story in their own words without fear of reprisal. As the incident became critical each had increased tunnel vision as they concentrated on their area of responsibility. Each depended on others involved to do their jobs with as much coordination as possible given the circumstances..
I dislike politicians’ and media obsession with blame, fault, and accusations of dereliction of duty. Maybe it’s a holdover from childhood whining about everything being somebody else’s fault. Oh the unfairness of it all. I guess it’s not an uncommon adult tactic to avoid accountability or to stab a colleague in the back to avert blame from oneself. We see that kind of puerile behavior in today’s Congress and among candidates for office.
In most incidents people involved are doing the best they can with information and under the conditions they’re facing. In sixteen years of helping debrief critical incidents I’ve personally never seen it otherwise. Whatever mistakes were made were likely the product of being human. Reviews help anticipate the sort of mistakes likely to be made in the future unless new procedures and training are implemented. If reviewers can determine probable cause or mistakes now why didn’t they anticipate it earlier so the disaster could have been avoided. Most often it’s the old problem of not knowing what you don’t know. Should they have anticipated and known? Sometimes better preventative measures are known but there are no resources or political ability to implement them. There are some cases where willful disregard of known facts indicate leaders should have known and taken steps to avoid a tragedy. That’s not often the case. Political and media attempts to suggest otherwise serve no useful purpose.
Yet perhaps, in a sense, maybe they do. Politicians can make themselves appear deeply concerned, sagely prescient, and declare the other party is to blame. Media titillate viewers with impressions of scurrilous scandal in order to boost viewership and help keep the ad revenue stream flowing. It’s a sleazy tactic. It means when true malfeasance is uncovered it’s more easily treated with a ho-hum sigh as just another sign of corruption being part of America’s signature. Is that what we want? I hope not and I don’t believe it is.