Saturday, March 2, 2013

Factors leading to the New Orleans flood disaster of August, 2005

Factors leading to the New Orleans flood disaster of August, 2005
The effects of the hurricane Katrina would not have befallen the New Orleans community had the government and disaster committee prepared in advance through consolidation of the available information to come up with a viable course of action and additionally disseminating it to the appropriate parties to accelerate able decision making. Despite the construction of the levees to defend the state against any storm occurrence, the structures were not strong enough to offer protection in case of a worse case scenario, yet all the people involved had sufficient knowledge about this. It is therefore not surprising that when the storm occurred, hurricane Katrina, the worst that had been inevitably fathomed was doomed to occur. The levees were breached and the storm caused flooding that no one would have imagined. (Independent levee investigation team, 2006)
The fact that both leadership and management had envisioned the occurrence of this risk yet took it lightly is a sign of poor risk assessment. It is said that there was a failure in both instances even before the construction phase had taken off. The flooding effects of hurricane Katrina were contributed by the numerous management and leadership failures accumulated over time. Despite knowing that the region is majorly accustomed to the occurrence of storms, human structures were still being put up along the gulf coast (ILIT, 2006). To make it worse, the structures were not strong enough to counter the effects of a flood in the case of its occurrence. This is worsened by the fact that it was common knowledge that the response units and preparation measures in place were inadequate and not sufficient yet even after the storm, there was no effort whatsoever to mobilize them effectively. When the hurricane occurred therefore, instead of working tirelessly to execute the responsibilities required of them, execution was still slow and coupled with lots of challenges.
It is noted that both trees and brushes were reported to have grown along the 17th streets and London Avenues of the levees respectively, despite the fact that this was not allowed under the standards established in light of levee protection (ILIT, 2006). This means that the organizations responsible for the building, operation and maintenance of the levees had failed in their duties and responsibilities. However, the main fault falls under the local sponsor, whose main duty was to ensure that the levees were well maintained, repaired and rehabilitated since they had already accepted to take over control of the completed units from the state, from the period 1977 to 1987.
Additionally, the structure itself was a miss from the word go. The NOFDS project engineers seemed to have neglected the issue of design in relation to the stipulated standards of the Project hurricane .None of the desired qualities like flood elevation due to surges or wave heights were reflected in the design. The design capacities used in the project did no seem to qualify with the stipulated guidelines that are supposed to act as levee protection factors, worsened by the fact that the configuration elements were not properly integrated to act as a flood defence mechanism (ILIT,2006).
 It is notable that the NOFDS structure was not properly audited due to lack of incentive systems. This therefore led to a structure that can otherwise be termed as being of poor quality and not in any sense desirable. The quality standards exhibited did not in any way meet the required standards applicable in the development of any NOFDS structure (ILIT, 2006). This meant that the element of situation awareness was not properly addressed due to their deficiency in the required command and control systems. It is noted that besides the concerns raised y an outside contractor on the inconsistencies of the levee, no action was taken to address the problem.
In the political dimension, the corps has had to endure both negative and positive pressure in the fulfilment of their duties. In this case however, it is evident that there was a backlog in the project in the sense that the cost benefit analysis conducted was clearly not properly done. This may have led to the foregoing of important considerations. This may have been due to the pressures of not only having to accomplish their projects in a shorter time frame but also in a cost effective manner. In its quest to achieve both elements, important aspects such as engineering superiority and oversight are compromised (ILIT, 2006).
Communication also seems to have been a major challenge as the decision making process aspect of the NOFDS project seems to have encountered one such weakness. There was a highly complex system and lots of decisions had to be made before the required resources would be provided to ensure that the project was even started off (ILIT, 2006). This was a primary cause of failure in the execution of the entire project. Thus, in its construction process the NOFDS did not consider the use of advanced methods in costs evaluation and risk reduction in relation to flood damage.
The general failure of the NOFDS project could be mainly attributed to the poor organizational structure of the engineering corps. However, the role played by the other factors is also not negligible. On the other hand however, it should be noted that the performance of the corps is centralized on the decisions carried out by the government just as is seen is regards to cost and time allocation. It should therefore be noted that despite the fact that most of the failure factors were due to poor structure, if blame should be laid therefore, then it should be directed towards the government involvement in the project.

Reference list
Independent levee investigation team, (2006), New Orleans flood disaster investigation report chapter 12.