I'm with Butterchurn on the responsibility thing. My opinion is:
1. Nobody is ever prepared for a disaster. I worked in the cleanup in Okla. City after that big multi-twister a few years ago and nobody there was prepared, even though it is the corner of Main and Center Streets in Tornado Alley. I frankly admit that I am unprepared for the same, even though I live in a tornado-prone area. I know what to do and I keep a 72 hour kit, but I don't have a tornado shelter and a direct hit would be a disaster for me.
2. When all communication is gone, as happened in N.O., you can't coordinate relief because you don't have a way to contact people and determine who is in need.
3. Responsibility for all things follows a distinct progression that goes something like this:
a. Help yourself. (IMHO, this includes prayer and divine guidance)
b. Help from your family.
c. Help from your local community. I understand that N.O. has an emergency flood plan and that the mayor did not follow it.
d. Help from your state Gov't.
e. Help from your national Gov't.
f. Help from the U.N. (but don't hold your breath)
Locally, Dallas is receiving lots of evacuees and putting them into every kind of building that can be found. One of my friends has 12 refugees living with him. They are employees (with families) of his bro-in-law and he has known them for some time. The group includes 5 teenage boys, so his grocery bill is going to be interesting, and our church is assisting in that. He was told to expect to house them for up to 6 months. They were in the Superdome and they are telling some scary stories. They say that the officials who were in charge were there during the hurricane, but then went home for a break. By the time they tried to return, they couldn't get back because of the flooding so anarchy set in. They said they'd have to hit the floor every 10-15 minutes when gunfire broke out. Nobody stepped up to the plate to designate bathroom areas, so everybody went wherever they could find a semi-private corner and pretty soon every corner had been semi-private at one time or another. Since they were isolated, people who needed medicines couldn't get it. And keep in mind, that these are the people that were known to be there and in need. They got help first. There were hundreds of places with groups of people in designated shelters and nobody knows what was happening in them because there is no communication with them.
I have another friend who is a V.P. of Greyhound Buslines and is responsible for New Orleans. That has been an adventure. First, they have 220 employees that they have not had any contact with. Second, they gathered as many of their N.O. employees as they could find and had them gather with their families at their depot, where they all got on buses to go North and set up a temporary depot to serve their routes during the storm. Good move, but all their cars are back in N.O. and the water was 18 feet deep in the parking lot. Third, they have 114 buses dedicated to evacuating refugees, but the big, overriding obstacle was communications. You just couldn't talk to anybody. Cell towers shorted out. Land lines shorted out. Ambulances have satellite phones, but they reserve them for their emergency use and there aren't enough of them in place. Only a few locations with refugees were known outside N.O. So they'd send a bus in to pick up people, and tell the driver to try to spot other people for the next bus. That means it was hit or miss at best, but it was the best they could do.
At our local church, we were told that the immediate need is for cash. Not goods! Goods require manpower to sort and distribute and it is much less efficient than simply buying what is needed. Also, we were told to NOT go down to N.O. Anybody going down there just adds to the burden of housing, feeding, and supplying all the needs of a huge population without an infrastructure. And finally, we were told that we should be prepared to provide relief support for an extended period of time - 6 months or more. We expect we'll be involved in the cleanup there similarly to what we did in Okla. City, which was sifting through rubble and making 3 piles: garbage (very large pile), salvageable materials (small pile), and personal/valuable items (handkerchief-size pile). We do maintain semi-trailers equipped with water treatment units, food, tents, and sanitation kits. We sent those down to La. immediately and they will stay until there is no more need for them.
We are also dealing with lots of people who want to accept evacuees into their homes. This is a scary proposition. I had to deny one woman who is single with 3 small children. How could we let her accept strangers into her home and have any kind of assurance that she would be safe? No way! Not for a long-term commitment like this one. When there is a man in the house it is only a little better. It will happen as we move forward, but only as we identify and assess the people who need help. Some evacuees will never be safely housed in volunteer homes. For now, the public shelters provide for their basic needs. Long term we will find a way to help them all.
Looking at the above, it might sound like I am in charge of something, but I'm not. I am involved, but no more than hundreds of other people in the community. Going back to the responsibility chart above, we are an extended level c. We are the local community, even though N.O. is hundreds of miles away.
"Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra