Road Supervisors: Terrorism and other Disasters.
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New York, 9/11, crowds run from the collapsing buildings.

Introduction.
Governments.
Employers.
Individuals.
Accommodation.
Transport.
Scenarios.
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Introduction.
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This article is not about fighting Terrorism... or dealing with Emergency situations... but preparing to live with the mass disruption that they can cause.  You can't eliminate all threats... so you just have to learn to live with them.  For some people... their solution might be to move to a low-risk destination... but clearly not everyone can just go and live somewhere else... nor would they choose too.  Fortunately, people can and do learn to live with risks... just as they learn to live with the threat of road accidents... they kill thousands ever year... but people don't sit around worrying about them all day.  [See blinkx Videos for more Information and news Stories on the issue of Terrorism.]
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If the Authorities don't have the resources to help everyone in these situations... then they need to spread the load.  Put systems in place so that people can help themselves... and assist others.  Each City... Employer... and Individual... should assess their various risks... and put together some contingency plans.  In most cases it comes down to two things... finding some temporary accommodation... and/or an alternate form of transport.  This article takes a look at the present situation... how it could be improved... and how the introduction of a Road Supervisor type system would help.
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Acts of Terrorism... Natural Disasters... Man-made chaos... both accidental and deliberate... have hit large cities in the past... and will certainly hit them again in the future.  Sometimes there is a bit of warning... like an approaching Hurricane... sometimes there is no warning... but it isn't a complete surprise either... like an Earthquake... and sometimes it just strikes out of a clear blue sky... like 9/11.  [blinkx Video.]  The Emergency Services might have the resources to deal with those who are directly affected... but it can leave thousands of others on the periphery of the event who have to fend for themselves.
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Often this will mean... thousands of people just standing around not knowing what to do... waiting for some information... waiting for services to be resumed.  To use a couple of examples...
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  • New York 14th August 2003... total failure of the electricity supply... man-made... but accidental.  No warning... so unable to plan ahead.  [blinkx Video.]
  • New York 20th December 2005... Public Transport strike... man-made... and deliberate.  Some warning... so time to initiate emergency plans.  [blinkx Video.]
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Literally... millions of lives are disrupted in these kinds of scenarios... people trying to get from the city centre to the outlying towns and suburbs... or trying to find somewhere to stay overnight in the city.
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The Result? complete chaos!  Thousands of people having to walk long distances... gridlock on the roads as traffic lights fail.  Many others staying in the city with friends... some managing to grab a hotel room... and many others who can't get home... can't find a room... and end up spending a long, cold night in a doorway.  Does this really need to be the case when there are so many people around... who could direct traffic... when there are thousands of cars with empty seats... and countless buildings where people could have spent a warm comfortable night.  The only things that are lacking is a bit of foresight, imagination and organisation.
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There are many Cities... and most of them will never be threatened by a disaster of any kind.  But there are also some fairly obvious places that do face a high risk of some kind... and if you know that there is a risk... then you should be developing a Plan.  Every level of Government... every Employer... every Individual... should know what they are going to do in any given scenario.  It is all very well Politicians praising the 'Spirit' of the General Public... but having a good 'Spirit' should not be viewed as an alternative to them developing a good Emergency Plan!
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If Public Transport has been completely knocked out at 4 p.m. you have little time to organise anything... thousands and thousands of people left helpless... stranded with nowhere to stay... and no way of getting home.  You need systems which can be fired up instantly... that can significantly increase the number of places to stay... and that can tap into the 'spare capacity' on the roads.  Something like a Road Supervisor Network could prove to be very useful in this kind of scenario.
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Governments.
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In the event of a large scale emergency the Authorities are faced with two different categories... those directly affected by the situation... and those indirectly affected by the disruption.  Possibly having to cater for large numbers of people who can't travel and need to stay in the city... or having to get large numbers of people out of a city.  In the event of a major disruption of the Public Transport Network... it could mean having to do both at the same time.  So, they need two systems that can respond very quickly... one that can provide Temporary Accommodation... and one that can provide Alternate Transport.
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Mass Evacuation.  What do you do in the event of a mass evacuation?  While many people will be self sufficient... have their own transport... perhaps friends or relatives they can go and stay with... the Authorities could still have thousands of others that they need to take some responsibility for... the Elderly... those in Hospitals... Prison... etc.  If they need to be fed and housed... where are you going to take them... how are they going to get there?
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Even if a Government employed a large number of people to do certain jobs in the event of an emergency... it would be very expensive... and come the day... these people may be unable to get to their posts because there's no Public Transport... the Roads are grid-locked... or they have gone off to look after their own families.  So, they need to put the systems in place... empowering large numbers of people so that they can look after themselves... and provide assistance to others.
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This is where a Road Supervisor type system could be very beneficial because you would instantly have a large number of volunteers spread across the entire city who could be activated at a moments notice.
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Temporary Accommodation.
The Government needs to ensure that they can call on a huge increase in cheap/free temporary accommodation if it is required in an emergency.  If you suddenly have to find temporary accommodation for ??? let's say 200,000 people... where will they all stay?  Obviously it will be better if they are spread out and it involves lots of different people... [rather than cramming them all into a huge sports stadium] with some... staying at their place of Work... Hotels setting up cheap dormitory accommodation in function rooms... and free accommodation in some Public Buildings.
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Private Property.  Perhaps it would even be possible to set up a website where people could register to say that they would be prepared to accommodate X-number of people in there home in the event of an Emergency???  Let them use an RV or caravan parked in their drive... or have a tent they could set up in their back garden.
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Employers.  Not every business has the facilities to accommodate their workers... but for many... a night in the office would be infinitely preferable to a night sleeping in a doorway... especially if some provision had been made to provide a camp-bed, stove, washing facilities, etc.
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Hotels.  In an emergency they could start renting out beds rather than whole rooms... even putting some extra camp-beds in rooms... so all vacant rooms are filled.  Many hotels also have other rooms like Lounges, Conference Rooms, Function Rooms, etc. which could also be filled with camp-beds.  [The 'Rates' could be predetermined so as to avoid any profiteering.]
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Public Buildings.  Again, not every building is suitable for accommodation... but all you really need is somewhere to set up some camp-beds and some toilet facilities.  Many people would be grateful to have this as one of their options.  In the event that thousands of people need to be evacuated from somewhere and accommodated in provincial towns... public buildings might be the only viable option.
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Alternate Transport.
If all mass Public Transport has been put out of action... the authorities might still be able to get a few coaches or buses... but there is no way they can cope with the vast numbers who usually use the system.  That will just leave the roads... private vehicles and Taxis.  Governments need to develop a system so that they can squeeze the maximum use out of both.
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Taxis... some places allow 'multiple hiring' when it is abnormally busy... perhaps picking up 3 or 4 separate individuals who are all heading in the same general direction... charging each a reduced fare... profitable for the driver and good value for the passenger.  [i.e. crazy to have hundreds of Taxis going from the Airport to the City Centre with just one passenger each... if there are hundreds of people waiting.]
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Private Vehicles.  If there was suddenly no Public Transport... many people would start walking home... many of those might try thumbing a lift... and many of those would probably get a lift.  Obviously, people would give lifts to those they know... but others, realising the situation... would probably go out of their way and do something they wouldn't normally do... pick up a hiker.  Countless others would just sit in their cars... on their own... and watch everyone else struggle along.  This is one area that could be... and should be... targeted in an emergency.
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Employers.
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Basically, any Employer... whether they are in the Private or Public Sector... needs to assess their own risks.  What kind of a threat is Terrorism... or one of these other various disasters to your Business?  At one extreme... something like Hurricane Katrina... or 9/11... can cause such disruption that a business might never recover.  One Terrorist strike at a Resort: [Bali: Egypt: Kenya: Turkey: Spain] customers disappear overnight... and it might take years to get back to normal.  In other instances... it might just be a case of getting through a day or so of disruption... and then it's back to normal.
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In London it has been estimated that only about 5% of companies have developed some contingency plans for dealing with disruption caused by Terrorism... which means that 95% have no idea what they will do... or how they will cope until after it happens.  Waiting until after the event might be too late.  Employers should know their Plans before hand.  [Note, come the day, various telephone systems may become overloaded, making it impossible to contact essential employees... or coordinate any kind of action.]

New York 2003: electricity fails and cell phones no longer work.

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You don't have to develop a highly detailed plan... just have some basic strategies in place so you already know... who is essential? who you can do without? who can work from home... or go to a different location? what work you can put off? which tasks to prioritise? [i.e. if you run a Hotel... you might be able to put off preparing your accounts... developing a marketing plan... doing minor repairs... but if you have guests, then cleaning the rooms is essential.]  Most employees won't want to see their company go broke... but when push comes to shove... some will roll up their sleeves... muck in and do their best... and others will just whine about it... "that's not my job"!  So, who can you rely on in a crisis? how flexible will your staff be?
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Temporary Accommodation.
Who lives too far out to travel in? who is prepared to 'camp' at work for a while? can you accommodate them? do you have some airbeds, sleeping bags, [if no electricity] do you have... heating, lighting, cooking facilities, water supply, sanitation requirements, etc.  Who would you be prepared to put up in a Hotel? will there be any rooms available? who can stay with family or friends? who would be prepared to accommodate a fellow worker? for how long? and under what conditions?
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Alternate Transport.
Who can walk? cycle? drive? car-pool? where will they park? store their bikes? etc.  What about a 7-seater 'People Carrier'... or a 12-seater Mini-Bus... [to replace someone's company car] that way, if Trains going in one direction have been hit... you could drive a lot of people home... [or swap vehicles with someone living in that direction.]  You could also pick up essential staff from along a route and bring them into the city from... say the North... from the South-West... if transport was going to be out of action for a while.
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Individuals.
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Should speak to their employer... find out what sort of contingency plans they have for coping in a crisis.  What do they expect you to do... take a day off... get into work somehow... work from home... report to another location???
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The State might draw up detailed plans for the emergency services covering a number of scenarios... including having a large scale evacuation plan... with places to accommodate thousands of evacuees.  On the other hand... they might have very little in the way of plans... and if you find yourself on the periphery of a disaster... you may find that you are pretty much on your own.  As an individual you should not rely on the State to solve your immediate problems because you will almost certainly be disappointed.  As an individual you should draw up your own plans straight away.  For your own safety and peace of mind... do not wait for the State to act on your behalf.
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Every individual's circumstances are different, that is why they need to examine their options and decide on their own Plan of Action... based on their own physical capabilities and resources.  Obviously, some people can walk 20 miles while others cannot physically walk at all.  Some have plenty of money... others have none.  Some have family and friends living in the city centre... other might not know anyone.  Basically, it comes down to... getting yourself home by some means... or staying somewhere that you don't normally stay.  [But... unless you are staying at your place of work, your plan might still involve having to travel to some extent.]
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Example... it's the end of the day... time to go home and suddenly you hear that a few bombs have gone off... the electricity grid has crashed??? and there is no Public Transport of any kind.  Well, you know where you work... and you know where you live.  You know what your capabilities are... you know what resources you have.  So... you should have a very good idea what sort of problems this would pose you... and have some idea what your alternatives are.  Bearing in mind... your employer might have already gone home... vacant Hotel rooms will be quickly snapped up... Taxis become like gold-dust... mobile phones might stop working because the system becomes overloaded.  What would you do? how would you get home... or where would you stay?  The following are just a few things to consider...
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Live >5 miles away.  Plan to walk... jog... cycle... use roller blades???  Have you got suitable clothing... footwear etc. available at your place of work.  Are you sure you know the Route?  Can you pick up a Bus or Train at a Station further out from the City Centre?
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Live 5-10 miles away.  Plan to cycle... use a small scooter or moped with an engine.  Again... is there somewhere you could keep it at work?  Do you have the right clothes and footwear?  Do you need a Map?
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Live 10-20 miles away.  Perhaps beyond walking distance for most people... especially at the end of a working day.  So the options would probably come down to getting a lift... some or all of the way... or staying somewhere you wouldn't normally stay.
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Live <20 miles away.  [As above]  Maybe going to carpool with someone at work... or perhaps walk a couple of miles and meet up with a Friend who lives out your direction.  Note... if the phones aren't working and you're running late... plans can easily fall apart... so what is your alternative plan?  [i.e. if you live 30 miles away, your plan might be to go and stay with a friend who's only 5 miles away.]  Or getting a lift with someone for the first 10 or 20 miles and then picking up Public Transport... or getting someone to pick you up.
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Ideally, you should have a plan and a couple of backup plans, i.e. a plan to get a lift home with someone... failing that, you have a bike in the basement at work, so you can ride to a Friend's house... can't contact them... don't want to risk travelling... whatever?  You have some emergency provisions at work... a camp bed or blow-up mattress, a sleeping bag, torch, [in case there's no electric] a small camping stove, some convenience food [tinned or dried] toothbrush etc. etc.  You can make this sort of back-up plan for very little outlay... if you never need to use it great! but if you do need it, it's there.  Basically, this is no different than taking out an Insurance Policy... you fork out a little money now... just in case the worst does come to the worst!
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On any given day... there are many people in the City Centre that do not have an employer... they may be there for pleasure, medical appointments, shopping, sight-seeing, etc. etc.  and of course the need to have a plan will not have been thought about... so what can they do?  There needs to be an alternative mechanism that people can tap into.
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Accommodation.
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The Government need to make sure there is emergency accommodation available... employees staying at their place of work: opening public buildings... having bedding and food available.  Ensuring Hotels have an emergency plan: i.e. they often have... function rooms: conference rooms: large open spaces.  If each Hotel invests a few hundred/thousand pounds in some... camp beds: air mattresses: etc... many could instantly accommodate hundreds of extra people... [perhaps charging a modest fee] or people could opt to stay overnight at a Public Building for free.
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  • Employers could use... Shops: Offices: Factories: Workshops, etc. 
  • Hotels could open up their communal areas... tariffs set for shared rooms or dormitories... in an emergency.  Cheap and cheerful!
  • Local Authorities could open... Libraries: Schools: Colleges: Museums: etc.  Organised at the 'Local' level... by people who live locally.  Not ideal... but free!
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Transport.
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In the event of a major strike by Terrorists against a City's Public Transport System... Trains in Madrid: [blinkx Video]... Buses and the Underground in London: [blinkx Video]... you can, within hours... find yourselves in a position of having hundreds of thousands of people stranded in a City Centre and no means of getting home.  Those that live within 4 or 5 miles might walk it without too much trouble... but what about those that live 10: 20: 30: miles out?  How many will walk that on a Winter's day... wearing a pair of high heels?
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Hitching a Ride.  While there may be thousands of people facing a very long walk home... there are also thousands of vehicles travelling down those very same roads... with just one or two people in each.  Clearly, a little bit of imagination and organisation before hand and the effects can be significantly reduced.  In effect... everyone who is walking hitches a ride... and everyone with a spare seat offers a ride.
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Transit/HOV Lanes... it may sound radical to be commandeering someone's private vehicle, but it doesn't have to be done that way... you only need to take control of the road system.  Declare all lanes... on all roads "Transit" Lanes or "High Occupancy Vehicle" Lanes.  Basically... your vehicle must be full... or you must be willing to have it filled at some appropriate pick-up point.  Or... you wait until the emergency restrictions are lifted before you travel.  [blinkx Video.]
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People offering Lifts... might make up a sign showing their final destination... and just pick up... and drop off anyone who is hitching in their general direction.
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People hitching Lifts... might also make up a sign showing their general route and/or final destination... and accept a lift from anyone offering a lift.
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Security.  For security reasons some people might be very reluctant to do either of the afore-mentioned and prefer to use an official "pick-up point"... such as a Bus Stop which could be monitored by cameras... or have a "Road Supervisor" overseeing things.  They might make a note of who got into which car... or the users might take pictures of each other on their phones and send a copy to a friend? a special website? etc. if the phone system was still working.
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The severity of any situation can be reduced considerably if you have 24hrs notice.  If there is a strike... many people can just take a day off.  Emergency arrangements can be implemented which use carpool staging areas... HOV lanes... special parking areas in the city centre, etc. etc.  Ideally, there should be plenty of cheap, secure parking for all types of bikes... as this would give people one more viable option.  [See blinkx Videos on the subject of Carpooling.]
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Road Supervisors.
In these kind of situations... where the emergency services are stretched or otherwise occupied... a Road Supervisors type system could be very useful.  It is far better for society as a whole if large numbers of it's citizens are engaged in a pro-active way... rather than just standing around waiting for 'someone to do something'.  Presumably, they would be well informed about procedures in any given scenario... they could listen to one specific radio station for up-to-the-minute news and instructions... and could act as a source of Information for other members of the public who were unsure what to do.
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They could make the situation more orderly and secure by supervising official pick-up points... directing traffic at intersections, if necessary... helping at the scene of any accidents... and increasing the number of people with some first-aid training.  This means there would be less people around who start to feel helpless and desperate... and less people resorting to desperate measures.
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Clearly, this situation does not apply to every town.  Most places are small enough that people could walk to their outskirts... so this applies to large cities... and not necessarily a place like Los Angeles which does not have one large central area... [like London, Paris or New York] and does not rely so heavily on mass Public Transport.  So, may not be as prone to mass disruption because of bombs... [but could still be brought to a halt by... coordinated sniper attacks... exploding hijacked fuel tankers under major intersections... a severe earthquake... wildfires... civil unrest... etc.]
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One Route... Road... or Train Line... might be out of action for some time due to damage of a Tunnel... Bridge, etc...  or could be an entire system knocked out for some time.  So... worst case scenario... there is no Public Transport.  However... private vehicles usually have an awful lot of 'spare capacity'... in many instances there are only 6 or 7 people for every 5 cars... which could carry 25 people.  So, in its most simple terms... imagine a scenario where there are thousands of people walking and thumbing a lift in the direction that they are walking... and all the vehicles with spare seats are prepared to give others a lift.  Perhaps it might take 3 or 4 different lifts to get home... [and others might give 3 or 4 different lifts as they drive home] but if everyone is prepared/compelled to help it shouldn't be an insurmountable problem.
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i.e.  Someone heading across London and out to the South-West might make up a sign saying... S.W. - Putney - Guildford.  They just start walking in that direction and get a lift from someone heading West.  Get as far as Kensington... get out and start thumbing towards Putney.  Once there... wait for a lift out to Guildford.  Once there they might complete the journey by Bus... get someone to pick them up... collect their car from the Train Station car park??? or whatever!
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In an Emergency you don't have to take over people's cars... you can just take over the road system instead.  In a severe emergency... just declared the roads a system of "Mass Public Transport" until further notice... and anyone that chooses to use their vehicle will become a part of that system.  If you don't want to share your vehicle... you wait.  [No doubt there would be some exceptions... like Emergency vehicles... Postal vehicles... Diplomatic vehicles... etc.]
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Road Supervisors could organise people together in their geographical locations... car stops with a sign saying Horsell - Woking... calls out Horsell... Woking... 3 spaces... loads them up.  Could take into consideration any personal preferences, i.e. a woman might only want to take other women.  [This may be considered high risk... but walking for miles through strange neighbourhoods can also be high risk.]
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Security Issues.  For their own security they might... text the details of the vehicle to a friend... take a picture of the driver and/or vehicle on their phone and send to a friend or special number... or the Road Supervisor might make a quick note... names... travelling to... in vehicle number.  Or pick up points might be at bus stops covered by cctv.
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Relaxation of some Rules... or Guidelines issued about... 
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  • wearing seatbelts...
  • use of baby seats...
  • number of passengers...
  • riding in the back of trucks, vans or pickups...
  • having due consideration... [i.e. don't put workmen in dirty clothes in a limo.]
  • dropping people near the centre of Town...
  • Insurance issues... 'Hire and Reward'... sharing costs...
  • whether you can charge a contribution towards fuel...
  • whether you can charge a contribution to go out of your way...
  • temporary car-pooling... if Public Transport is out of action for a while...
  • suspension of any tolls or congestion charges...
  • additional car parking near the city centre...
  • or making a complaint if it all goes horribly wrong?!?
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Scenarios.
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Governments all have their own systems and names for different "states of readiness"... or present "levels of threat"... [like "severe" or "critical"] which indicates the likelihood that something will happen.  But they also need a system they can easily implement after something has happened... so that a Government could just declare a... Code Amber Alert... Code Red... Code Black... [or whatever system they care to use???]
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Once an emergency code was declared... ideally... everyone would then know what their options were... or could quickly find out... so even when everyone is rushing in every direction... the system, as a whole, is still moving with the same sense of purpose that an ant colony does when it is under attack... rather than running around like a bunch of headless chickens.  Disruption... from moderate to severe... can be caused by a whole range of things, like...
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  • Natural... Bush-Fires... [Smoke] Floods... [Torrential Rain, Burst River Banks, Tidal Surges, Tsunamis, Flash Floods, Collapsed Dykes, etc.] Hurricanes, [Cyclones, Typhoons,] Tornadoes... Snow... Ice... Severe Drought...
  • Geological... Earthquake... Volcano... Landslides... Global Warming...
  • Sociological... Electrical Failure... Transport Strike... Nuclear Accident... Pollution... Terrorism... War... Famine... Civil Unrest... Ecological Devastation... Economic Chaos... Mass Immigration... Alien Invasion?!?

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1950's "Green Goddess"

Modern Fire Engine.

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Joined-up Government?  Do we need a back-up to the existing Fire Service?  [Either to provide cover in the event of a Strike... or for back-up in case of a Terrorist Attack or Natural Disaster.]  If we do... then surely the Government should make sure that ex-Fire Service equipment [used for about 10-15 years] is passed on to the Armed Forces... rather than being sold off to foreign governments for a fraction of their original cost.  If we don't need them... then why are we going to the expense of keeping about 800 "Green Goddesses" in road-worthy condition?  These vehicles date from about 1953 on... and are clearly... not fit for purpose!
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You finish work at 5 p.m... get to the station... and find that all subway trains have been cancelled.  Then find there are no buses or main line Trains either.  You try a Hotel, but all are full... [any spare rooms are quickly snapped up.]  You can't get a Taxi for love nor money... and besides they are suddenly charging extortionate fares... and you live 20 miles away.  Also, it's snowing... and you're only wearing a pair of high heeled shoes.  You try your mobile and find that the network is overloaded... so you can't contact anyone.  So, what do you do now?
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Basically... you're stuffed!  But with a little bit of forward planning by yourself... your employers... and the Authorities... you could have a number of options.  First, get home using the lift system.  Or, go back to work and sleep the night there, on a camp-bed.  Or check into one of the Hotels that will be doing Dormitory beds for a low price.  Or, go to one of the Public Buildings and get a free bed for the night.  Whatever you decided... you shouldn't have to make the choice between a 20 mile walk in a pair of high heels... or spending the night in a doorway.
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Code Amber. 
Voluntary... major disruption due to a Public Transport strike... as in New York 20th December 2005.  Some prior warning so the Authorities could implement their emergency plans, using special... car-pool staging areas... HOV lanes... parking in the city centre... etc.  Non-essential staff could stay at home... others might report to a different office.  Emergency Services available to assist.
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Code Red. 
Compulsory... an unexpected major disruption because of... a terrorist attack... or the total failure of the electricity supply... as in New York 14th August 2003.  Emergency Services could easily become stretched to their limits... and beyond.  With no warning... there are no plans in place... everyone is just left to their own devices.  New York 14th August 2003... while many people did take it upon themselves to take people into their homes... offer lifts... man congested intersections... etc. there were still many other people left spending the night out on the streets.  It is just fortunate that it happened in August and not mid-winter.
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With the right systems in place a city should be able to provide a lift-share system with one short announcement.  Road Supervisors would instantly start to man intersections, if necessary... and organise lifts at official pick-up points.  Taxis would start multiple hiring.  Meanwhile, Hotels and Public Buildings could start preparing for an influx of temporary guests.  By taking responsibility for the disruption, it would leave the Emergency Services free to concentrate on the "Emergency".
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Code Black.
Hollywood Movie Scenario.  Everybody must leave the city because... Hurricane: Volcano: Tidal-wave: Flood: possible major Terrorist strike...???  Seize any vehicles and pack them to the gunnels.  Or everyone must stay... to avoid spreading a virus... terrorists on the loose... wide-spread rioting and looting...???  City has gone into some kind of "Lockdown" mode... or a place is overwhelmed by refugees from another disaster area.  Open as many buildings as possible to provide temporary shelter.
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Evacuating a City.  If a flood barrier or dyke was about to be breached... and you had to evacuate, literally, millions of people, in a short space of time... how would you do it? where would you take them? where would they stay?  It happened in New Orleans... it could happen in London... it could happen to a large part of The Netherlands... or to countless other places... so what are their plans?
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Louisiana: 2005.  An abject lesson in... how not to do it!!  They had plenty of warning... both long term [i.e. it will happen at some time] and short time [i.e. it will happen in the next 24hrs] and yet, it still ended in disaster.  Of course, most people who decided to stay and 'ride-out' the Storm would probably have had some provisions... but they were preparing for a 24 hour storm... not a semi-permanent flood... and the provisions were probably in the house... while they ended up sitting on the roof... in hot sunshine, with no water and no food.  This is a very good example of the limits of Government... even one with a lot of resources.  Any major disruption... make sure that you can look after yourself... because no one else will!!  [blinkx Video.]
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England: July 2007.  While not on the scale of New Orleans... hundreds of thousands of people have been severely affected... many for a very long time.  Properties damaged by flood water... severe lack of drinking water... no electricity... and no prospect of a quick return to normality for many people.  With so many properties damaged there will inevitably be stiff competition for the services of tradesmen... leaving the vulnerable at risk of being ripped-off by the unscrupulous.  Again, there is an enormous gap between the services than are provided by the State... and those that are required by the people... and that gap can only be filled by local volunteers.  [blinkx Video.]
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California: October 2007.  Not a complete surprise... there have already been very bad Wildfires in... 1970, 1993, 2003, and now 2007... so there is a long term warning that these things will happen.  The risk also goes up as temperatures and winds increase... so people know they may be affected within days... and operating a Reverse-911 system... people can get an immediate warning... time to evacuate!  Even with plenty of time to plan... thousands of emergency personnel... these situations can still be overwhelming... with as many as 2000 homes destroyed... $1billion worth of damage... and 1 million people temporarily evacuated.  For some victims the effects may be devastating and permanent... but fortunately, for the vast majority... it is a temporary inconvenience... back to normal... until next time!?!  [blinkx Video.]
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