Hurricane Katrina Essay
Hurricane and Katrina
The American government has been looked at as one of the world’s best organized governments - Hurricane Katrina Essay introduction. That may be true, basing the argument on the fact that it is a beacon of light as far as democracy and civil rights are concerned. It is known to give aid to the third world countries and basically dominate the world’s economy. It is also known for its ability to give the biggest donations and loans to other countries. But the occurrence of the hurricane Katrina was a good indicator that our leadership does not deserve all that much credit after all. David Boaz, the executive vice president of The CATO Institute, said that “the advocates of our government deserve to be commended, because the failures of our government are never an embarrassment to them.” Government failures give them yet another reason to give it more power and money, claiming that the funds will be used in the preparation of any catastrophes that may arise. (David Boaz, September 2005)
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But do our leaders really take the time to plan for the expected catastrophes? Paul Krugman of the Washington post wrote in the 2nd of September in 2005 and said that three of the most probable catastrophes in America had been listed before the September 11th terrorist attack. This list was prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The catastrophes included: a destructive earth quake in San Francisco, an attack by terrorists in New York and a hurricane in New Orleans. These catastrophes were again discussed by the Houston Chronicle, in the December of 2001 and said that of all the three catastrophes, the one that was most likely to occur was the hurricane strike in New Orleans. (Krugman .P 2005)
Then came the September 11th terrorist attack; the government was still caught unprepared, despite the warning given to them. After the attack, the funds catering for such unexpected attacks and catastrophes were increased to 50 billion dollars. The government went ahead to create a department to cater for the Security of Americans. FEMA was merged together with the Department for the Homeland Security. Approximately190, 000 employees were employed to work for the organization.
Spencer S Hsu, a writer of the Washington post wrote that the occurrence of the Hurricane Katrina was an exposure of the US government’s failure to learn from the terrorist attack of 2001. He continues to state that despite the early warnings given to our leaders; even the president himself never took it as his responsibility to take measures that would have been necessary. A report produced by the house reporters said that the former president had the opportunity to share some of the information given to him concerning the catastrophe, but neither did he make serious emergency plans that would have saved many lives nor prepare his government to be alert for expected catastrophes. (Spencer S. Hsu, 2006)
Some of the failures found within the government have been discussed below. These include:
Our leaders failed us by failing to order people to evacuate from New Orleans early enough. This led to the suffering and deaths of many people including the delay of the relief foods. Findings showed that Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin had been warned that there would be a catastrophe 56 hours before its occurrence. But these two failed the citizens of New Orleans because they neither informed nor ordered the people to evacuate, until just 19 hours before the occurrence of the Katrina.
Mayor Nagin also failed when he decided to shelter those who had not yet evacuated. This was a poor decision that he would have avoided, had he warned people to start evacuating early enough. Therefore, there was an incomplete evacuation, which led to the occurrence of preventable deaths. It also put the lives of many rescuers at risk, as they had to do many dangerous rescues, not to mention the suffering of those who had to be rescued in very critical state. The state, federal and the local officials also failed when they did not set
the conditions for the evacuation process early enough, though they knew that there would be danger in delaying the evacuation, just incase the catastrophe occurred.(Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg103)
Leaders never had a National Response plan
The former president, Mr. Bush, never received enough or sufficient information and advice concerning the tragedy. A senior professional, who really understood what was happening, should have given the former president advice and recommendations on the Katrina. Knowing the consequences that occurrence of a major hurricane could have had on New Orleans; he could have named the matter an issue of National Significance before Saturday, which was two days to the occurrence of the hurricane. This would have given the residents of New Orleans ample time to evacuate.
President Bush should also have declared a national emergency, as soon as the National Weather Service predicted the possibility of a hurricane of category 4 or 5 would strike New Orleans. Furthermore, the Secretary should have been advised to convince the Interagency Management Group to predict the probable damages of the Hurricane Katrina would cause. The group should also have analyzed the intensity at which the government would have reacted in response to the catastrophe. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg131)
The Center for the Homeland Security Operations was not efficient in providing the progress of the situation to the white house as well as to the officials in charge of the rescue efforts when the disaster occurred. There were also no clearly defined roles and responsibilities for rescuers. The Federal agencies and DHS, who worked under the National Incident Management System and the National Response Plan, were not properly advised on their roles in the rescue efforts. There are also suggestions that had the former president reacted earlier on the catastrophe, the consequences would not have been as many and serious as they were.
Lack of preparedness
FEMA and DHS are said to have lacked enough experience and training to tackle with the Hurricane Katrina situation. Enough preparation was not done given to the staff on how to manage the rescue efforts in case of an occurrence such as the Hurricane Katrina. They never took the advice given to them to be prepared for a hurricane strike in New Orleans. It is also known that most of the grants that are given to the States are mostly given for the purpose of terrorism control. The government has thus failed to raise enough funds to spend on natural catastrophes, but has instead concentrated on terrorism and war control efforts. It has also been said that had FEMA been more prepared, then the federal response would have been more efficient. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg151)
Lack of coordination from the military
It is definitely true that the military did a lot of hard work in the rescue efforts. However, their efforts were not so coordinated. The coast guard did its best to save many lives, but the communication with other rescuers was not so effective. The National Guard and other forces that were active at cite were a hindrance to the effective response of the military. The National Guard, Louisiana, and Mississippi Katrina did not have the necessary rescue equipment and communication, which would have made their job much easier. The American government therefore needs to invest more in the purchase and management of such rescue equipments to make rescue efforts much easier.
Also, most rescue operations started late after the tragedy had already occurred. Important resources were provided by the Arm Corps of Engineers, but they should have been given adequate contracts before the Hurricane Katrina occurred. The summary of the military efforts shows that there was poor coordination among different groups. The officers
in charge should therefore work towards working together in times of emergencies to prevent unnecessary deaths and to make the rescue efforts easier. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg 201)
The government failed to provide efficient medical services to the affected.
There was a poor positioning and planning on where to locate the medical personnel, equipment and other medical supplies. Either, they got used up and delays in restocking were there, or there were shortages at various stations. The government did give enough help to the hospitals in New Orleans, and other care providers in the evacuations, even when the evacuation order was given on such a short notice. It was also a failure for the government to fail to provide sufficient air transport for the patients from the hospitals in New Orleans to other hospitals.
The transportation of the patients would have started earlier, if the authorities had ordered the doctors to start evacuating the patients early enough. There would have been no emergency for the transportation of the patients through private helicopters. The evacuated patients faced problems in that they did not have electronic records of their medical history; something that would have been prevented had the evacuations started early. There was no clear understanding of who controls the National Disaster Medical System, between the officials of the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Disaster Medical System. Furthermore, there were delays in the recovery of the bodies because of lack of coordination among the medical rescuing groups. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg 267)
Government’s poor planning
The government ordered the people to evacuate, yet they had not prepared for enough shelter for the relocated people to settle. There were also poor housing plans, where the people were settled inadequate and hazardous conditions. There lacked a database that can control and coordinate the housing within the region. This led the government to search for other shelters, which were obviously not enough to shelter the thousands of people displaced. There were also major delays in moving the people from the shelters to better houses, although they were temporary. There are also complains that FEMA did not work with the department of housing to organize large scale housing. This leads to the reasoning that if FEMA had worked well with the Department of Housing and Urban Development even long enough before the occurrence of the Hurricane Katrina, there would have been available houses to house the evacuated people. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg 311)
Poor prevention measures
The levees built to protect the Hurricane Katrina struck region were not made to protect it form severe hurricanes. Had the government taken the warning that there was a possibility for a hurricane to strike, they would have made stronger levees to reduce the magnitude at which the hurricane hit New Orleans. The levees were also very poorly maintained, another irresponsibility of the leaders. Some leaders complained of the unawareness that the levees were damaged. Obviously, this shows the poor communication between those responsible for the repair and the maintenance of the levees. However, the government made efforts to investigate on what made the levees fail to protect the region from the Hurricane. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg 87)
Government failed to feed the people, which led to people crimes
At the areas struck by the Hurricane Katrina, there was increased violence due to various circumstances, which can be blamed on no one but the failure of the government. First, is the lack of food, which left the people no choice except to loot food from previous stores. There was also no water and electricity, more reasons for the survivors of the Hurricane Katrina to steal items such as clothes, flash lights, camping equipments, water, and batteries among other things. At some point, even the police officers themselves were engaged in the looting, where they broke in to the stores to get commodities such as food, medicine and other wants necessary for the survival of people awaiting rescue. Conditions like these arose because the government delayed in bringing aid to the people trapped in the flood. However, there are those who stole commodities with the intentions of a criminal, for resale after the floods had died and life gotten back to normal.
What was worse about the situation is that the police head quarters in New Orleans were over flooded when the levees broke. There was no centre for the suspected criminals to be arrested. Many police officers went missing, so there were almost no authorities watching the area and police cars were washed away. Communication lines broke down, so people who were suspected to be criminals could not be arrested. The district head quarters lost control of the station. (Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, pg 241)
It is good that the Select committee admitted of its failure to conduct her rescue operations as effectively as it should have. The Hurricane Katrina was big for the government to handle, especially amid too much unprepared ness, thus the occurrence of many deaths that could have been prevented. This is a wake up call for the government to give initiatives to the leaders in charge of the various organizations in charge or connected with disaster management to take their work seriously. Planning should be the number one issue that the government should focus on.
There is also a need to act on the communication networks used by our leaders. One of the reasons that the government failed to protect the Americans was because the leaders were unaware of the changes and the development of the Katrina. There was conflicting information being passed on to the officers that were in charge of the rescuers. This is why it is important for the government to plan and coordinate plans, even with the availability of the least amount of information. Our leaders also need to be fast in making the decisions that concern many people. It was hard for the people of New Orleans to convince the elderly people that they had to evacuate, even after living there almost all their lives. People complained that had the announcement been made early enough, then the evacuation would have been less troublesome.
The failure of our government to protect the people from the Hurricane Katrina should be a reason to disturb all Americans. Even if the Select Committee sits back and commends anyone who was involved with the rescue mission of the affected, we should understand that what they did was not the best that they could have done. This essay shows a summary of the failures of our leaders, and their inadequacy in preparing for the Hurricane Katrina. The failure of the government cost many lives and Americans have been left with many doubts in their minds: whether the government of today is prepared to protect the Americas from any danger, or is its capability the same as before the September 11th terrorist attack. Has the government learnt enough from its mistakes in the past, and is it taking effective measures to control other disasters that may arise?
1) Christopher Cooper, Robert Block, 2007, Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security, California, Macmillan
2) CNN International, February 14, 2006, Brown says he’s been made Katrina scapegoat, retrieved on 2/2/2009 from http://edition.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/02/10/katrina.brown/index.html
3) David Boaz, September 2005, Catastrophe in Big Easy Demonstrates Big Government’s Failure: CATO Institute Website, retrieved on 2/2/2009 from http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=4819
4) George D. Haddow, Jane A. Bullock, Damon P. Coppola, 2007, Introduction to Emergency Management, New York, Butterworth-Heinemann,
5) Hsu S. S. Sunday, February 12, 2006, Katrina Report Spreads Blame, Washington Post Page A01
6) Krugman Paul, 2nd, September in 2005, Catastrophe prediction, Washington post
7) Robert E. Pierre and Ann Gerhart, News of pandemonium May Have Slowed Aid Washington post, Oct. 5, 2005 at A8.
8) Select Bipartisan Committee, 2006, A Failure of Initiative: Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, Washington D.C, U.S Government printing office