As more and more supplies are coming into the areas affected by Hurricane Ike and these items are being distributed to people in need — we are starting to get some of the first reports of people abusing the offered services.

Example A, as reported by Houston television station KHOU-TV, is a news story chronicling the joys of self-described Baytown, Texas ‘Uninteresting Teacher’ Jacki Steinhauer.

Jacki seems to have developed a palette for the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that are being distributed to thousands of Gulf Coast residents in need. These are folks who have been displaced because of having no power in their homes or because their homes have been so destroyed as to make them unlivable. The problem with Jacki’s choice in meals is that SHE DOES NOT NEED OR DESERVE IT!

According to the KHOU-TV report, Jacki has no damage to her home and she has power. The only thing that Jacki does not seem to have is a clue or a conscience.

Since her school is closed because of the post-Ike issues, Jacki decided to take to the Internet and blog about her experiences in acquiring items she does not need and what she likes about MREs. Here are some of her posted thoughts:

“Life is great after a hurricane when nothing really happened to your house!”

“I think that I am falling in love with MREs. They are pretty darn good. I went around 5:30 to go get more MREs and actually got another box of real MREs, water, and ice.”

“Yesterday I ate meatballs with marinara sauce, almonds, wheat bread with cheese sauce, pretzels, and the orange punch. Today’s meal was chili mac, applesauce, a pop-tart, wheat bread with cheese sauce, fruit punch, and apple cider.”

“It is so cool that you put a little bit of water in the bag with the food and in about a minute, there is hot food.

This is great. I don’t have school and getting free food!”

Congratulations Jacki. You just made yourself a pariah. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who could have used the bottled water, ice and meals you decided to help yourself too. It was just too good of a deal for you to pass up.

Instead of taking real ‘advantage’ of your time off from the classroom and say… I don’t know… volunteering to help some of your fellow Texans, you decided to take selfish advantage of a tragic situation.

FEMA, the State of Texas, local jurisdictions and chapters of the Red Cross and other relief organizations are breaking their backs with little to no sleep with television cameras and microphones shoved down their throats waiting to capture and glorify any mistake or misstep, but you decided it was just “great” to get “free food.”

Again, congratulations, Jacki. You’ve joined a distinguished group of individuals who have used and abused an already stressed public service for your own selfish behavior. You’ve got some great company, too. There are the folks who took their Katrina disaster assistance funds to buy a set of ‘Girls Gone Wild’ videos and others who took the Hawaiian vacation. And let’s not forget the person who went for some truly ‘life altering surgery’ (and I’m not talking about heart bypass surgery either).

Jacki, as you enjoy your time off, I hope you’ll be available at some future date to join all of the Federal, State and Local officials who will find themselves dragged before Congressional Committees and television cameras. I sincerely hope you’ll get a seat between FEMA’s Logistics Team and the Red Cross Shelter Directors who will be mocked and pummeled by angry Congressional Members (and followed out the door by throngs of investigative reporters) for trying to do their jobs in the midst of a disaster while needs, demands and exhaustion were rising exponentially. I’m hoping you’ll bring a list of your favorite MREs meals to share as well.

There have always been ‘Jackies’ who have taken advantage of these situations for their own selfish benefit. Sometimes these people are caught and prosecuted for fraud and other abuses, but the majority just get away with it. That’s the real crime of this situation but in spite of the selfish idiocy of individuals like Jacki ,there is still a job to do and we should all be grateful it’s still being done.

I guess we should also be grateful that Jacki has taught the rest of us what type of individual we don’t want our fellow citizens, and most especially our children, to be. As a teacher, she’s also given us a teachable moment for what the entire emergency response, logistics and recovery teams have to be wary of: while they serve people who really need help — they have Jacki and her kind standing in line for their share too.

There has to be a word for people like this…

How about ‘Jackies’?

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More