Monday, June 17, 2013

HURRICANE KATRINA

1.0 Introduction On the 29th of August the year 2005 the gulf coast of the United States of America, on the eastern side of New Orleans was hit by the Hurricane Katrina. According to Dolfman et al (2007, p. 3) this hurricane brought about many adverse ramifications for the New Orleans region. In addition to 80% of the city being flooded, Hurricane Katrina caused destruction estimated to cost $200 billion dollars making it one of the most devastating and financially pricey hurricanes to have taken place in the United States of America. In addition to this, an estimated 1,200 Americans lost their lives as a consequence of the hurricane while tens of thousands lost their homes and had to be relocated to other parts of the American nation. The adverse effects of Hurricane Katrina on the social, financial, psychological and human systems in New Orleans and the American nation in general has been the subject of many controversial debates. This paper aims at assessing the technology plans that were established prior to the hurricane as well as how the technology plans and frameworks were made use of before, during and after the event. The different decision makers involved in the process and the quality of their decisions as well as the manner in which they collaborated with other pertinent stakeholders will also be deliberated upon in detail. The consequences of such decisions as well as the lessons that can be learnt from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy will also be analyzed before recommendations are made on how a similar event can be avoided in future. The paper will end with a summative conclusion and a list of the references quoted here in. 2.0 Plans Prior to Hurricane Katrina Many plans had been set in place to respond to the hurricane danger in New Orleans years before Hurricane Katrina occurred. On April of 2002 the Louisiana Board of Regents permitted a grant of $3.7 million to be injected in investigative research that would be carried out for half a decade on New Orleans’s risk to hurricanes. This study would not only identify possible hurricane paths and predict anticipated impacts but also formulate post recovery strategies. The LSU Hurricane Centre made it clear that this budget was very limiting and that federal investment in hurricane and wind disaster management was very low. In 23rd -27th of June 2002 the Times-Picayune in New Orleans made public a five part series of the harm that could come to New Orleans in the event of a hurricane. The involvement and collaboration of different governmental agencies was also described using Hurricane Pam. On the summer of the year 2004 FEMA indicated their awareness of the danger that faced New Orleans in the event that a hurricane occurred. It was for this reason that FEMA petitioned for a contract to formulate an effective hurricane management policy. FEMA indicated that in the event of a hurricane more than a million persons would have to be evacuated and that an estimated 350,000 others would be hindered by the floods. 3.0 Decisions by Different Levels of Government The decisions that were made by different leaders during this time had consequences and effects- both long terms and short term- for the city and people of New Orleans. Before the Hurricane Katrina occurred the disaster planes that were put in place failed to consider the lessons learnt from past catastrophes such as Hurricane Pam. The National Response Plan government agency, for instance, failed to define the military response expected in small areas of disaster as opposed to larger areas. In addition to this, the details on the collaboration that should exist between the military and civic agencies in the event of a hurricane were vague. In addition to this, the plans and strategies formulated by the National Guard State were wanting since they did not define the role of outside assistance in the event that New Orleans encountered a hurricane. The policies that were put in place in New Orleans were also ineffective since none of them had been satisfactorily tested by use of a strong exercise program. The different roles to be played by the military, state, federal and local agencies of assistance were therefore undefined and their collaboration very low. Miller (2007) claims that there were a number of leadership issues and overgeneralizations in the disaster response policies that caused the concerned leaders and expert to be caught by surprise when Hurricane Katrina struck. The problems at FEMA also contributed greatly to the lack of preparedness that was indicated when Hurricane Katrina struck. Before becoming FEMA’s director in the year 2001 Michael Brown had worked for almost a decade as a commissioner in an Arabian horse association and had no prior experience in disaster management. Moreover, by the time Hurricane Katrina struck in the year 2005 there were at least three senior positions at FEMA that were either unfilled of occupied temporarily. This was particularly so in Mississippi and Alabama. According to Schleifstein (2002) the leaders and government officials realized that their “refuges of last resort” could not work in a major hurricane due to the fact that few public buildings had the capacity to endure 155-200mph category 5 storms. The building laws in New Orleans required that buildings be erected to endure winds blowing at 100 mph for only 190 seconds. The authorities in New Orleans thus deserted the refuge plans. Walter Maestri- the director of Jefferson Parish office of Emergency Preparedness- revealed that since 90% of New Orleans’s building could not endure a hurricane plans had to be put in place to protect property. Huckey Purpera- chief of natural and technical hazards division in the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness- claimed that the high schools being constructed could serve as refuge areas (Schleifstein, 2002). 4.0 Lessons Leant from Hurricane Katrina According to Litman (2006, p. 2) the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina revealed a great number of weaknesses in the hurricane response policies and frameworks of preparedness in New Orleans. According to Miller (2007) there are many lessons that can be learnt from Hurricane Katrina; the first is that states should be able to recognize and modernize their risk factors. The first major lesson is that the levels of national preparedness in the nation of America to respond to catastrophes such as this hurricane are very low and ineffective. Hurricane Katrina also revealed the importance of effective leadership when natural calamities occur. In addition to this, Light (n.d, p. 3) claims that Hurricane Katrina revealed the lack of integration and collaboration that exists between regional agencies of response to catastrophes and the American Military. The response to this disastrous occurrence would have been more effective if there had been clearly stated directions for the collaboration and integration of the military and regional disaster response agencies. 5.0 Recommendations There are a number of recommendations that can be made to ensure that the agencies for disaster preparedness in Louisiana and New Orleans- with particular regard to hurricanes- are effective enough to respond to any similar occurrence. These recommendations are made based on the Hurricane Katrina experience as witnessed in New Orleans.  New Orleans, Louisiana, and all other regions in America must develop a culture of disaster preparedness. As a matter of fact, this should be amongst the top agendas in the US. Government officials should work collaboratively with citizens and other relevant bodies to ensure effective preparedness to such disasters.  Another very important recommendation that will ensure that no other hurricane in Louisiana causes as much damage as Hurricane Katrina did is the creation of a regional framework of disaster preparedness and response. Homeland Security Regions should not only be adequately staffed but also equipped with the machinery and infrastructure required to respond effectively to such disasters.  Establishment of modern protective structures as well as effective maintenance and repair exercises. This is a very important recommendation as indicated in Hurricane Gustav that occurred in New Orleans in September 2008.  The Department of Health and Human Services must also be strengthened so as to ensure effective federal reaction to disasters in the United States of America. 6.0 Conclusion As indicated in this paper, hurricanes can cause a lot of property damage and loss of lives. Hurricane Katrina is estimated to have caused destruction estimated at $200 billion dollars. In addition to this, an estimated 1,200 Americans lost their lives as a consequence of the hurricane while tens of thousands lost their homes and had to be relocated to other parts of the American nation. After hurricane Katrina took place a lot of money, time and energy was injected into providing immediate relief and recovery for those affected in New Orleans. There were many lessons that were learnt from this hurricane. Amongst these included lack of effective preparedness, poor integration of the military in disaster response processes and poor leadership in agencies tasked with the responsibility of responding to such disasters. The present administration in the United States of America seems to have taken the lessons learnt from Hurricane Katrina very seriously. William Fugate- the current director of FEMA- is not only an experienced fire fighter but also a disaster paramedic and a Lieutenant at the Alachua County Fire Rescue. As Hurricane Isaac looms around the Louisiana region Fugate is tasked with the responsibility of collaborating with significance others to ensure what happened with Hurricane Katrina is never repeated on American soil. 7.0 References Light, P. C., (n.d), The Katrina Effect on American Preparedness, Centre for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response, pp. 1-9 Litman, T., (2006), Lessons from Katrina and Rita: What Major Disasters can Teach Transportation Planners, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, pp. 2-22 Dolfman, M. L., Fortier, W. and Bergman, B., (2007), The Effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’s Economy, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 3, pp. 1-16 Miller, B., (2007), 5 Lessons Learnt from Katrina: Understand and Manage Hurricane –Related Risk, Construction Zurich Services Corporation Schleifstein, M., (2002), Washing Away: Building Better, Hurricane Tracking and Forecast, The Times-Picayune