This paper will work to research and examine an actual emergency situation occurring within the last eight years that required interaction among the local, state, and national levels. The research and examination will be written from the position of a local emergency management employee assigned to draft a report to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The event will be summarized, stating what occurred and when it occurred. It will discuss whether or not there were any casualties, injuries, or if there was any environmental damage. It will discuss the primary cause of the event. The intergovernmental jurisdictions that were involved will be discussed along with the coordination between those jurisdictions. The types of technology that were used during response and recovery will be reviewed, and the tools, equipment, and technologies that would have worked to improve relief efforts will be mentioned. It will discuss who should be responsible for funding and providing the tools, equipment and technology, and whether or not there were any coordination issues. The types of forecasting technologies that could have been used and were used prior to the event will be discussed and the conclusions and recommendations that could be made will be provided.
Keywords: disaster recovery, catastrophe, crisis management resources, summarization, damages, causality, jurisdictions, technology, responsibility, conclusions, recommendations
Within the past eight years there have been many catastrophes, from the oil spill in the Gulf to the wildfires that rage every year in California, but perhaps the natural disaster that has had the most widespread, or at least the most widely reported, destruction was that which was wrought by Hurricane Katrina. On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States, hitting squarely on New Orleans (History.com, 2013). More accurately, it made landfall “between Grand Isle, Louisiana and the mouth of the Mississippi River” (CNN, 2013). Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane at the time that it made landfall; with sustained winds of 100-140 miles per hour and approximately 400 miles across, it has been called the most costly hurricane in the history of the United States (History.com, 2013; Hurricane Facts, 2013). The damage from Katrina was not just as a result of the storm itself, which was tremendous, but also as a result of breaches that occurred in the levees, leading to massive flooding and further damages to homes and cities (History.com, 2013).
Environmental damages were rampant as a result of the issues caused by the storm and its resulting aftermath; a few short days after Katrina, the floodwaters turned black as a result of contamination by both raw sewage and dead bodies, and rashes developed as a result of coming into contact in the water (Hurricane Facts, 2013). Fires and explosions occurred as a result of exposed electrical wires and gas lines in the area, resulting in electrocutions and loss of utilities within the area (Hurricane Facts, 2013). Death tolls as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath range from 1,836 people (Zimmermann, 2012) to 2,000 people (Hurricane Facts, 2013). While there is no specified number provided, given that all estimates are within the same range, it seems logical to place the toll between the two. Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have either lost their homes or been displaced from their homes as a result of the hurricane, spanning across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and reports estimate that Hurricane Katrina caused more than $100 billion dollars in damages (History.com, 2013). The number of injuries that resulted from Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath are unknown.
The primary cause of the event itself was the hurricane; however, the situation was exacerbated by the slow response times of the government and FEMA, which served to cause additional loss of life, increased clean up time, and increased illness and injury (History.com, 2013). This was a conflict that was solved when the governmental response did show up; however it was never truly resolved, as the communications that caused the delays have never been fully tested since Hurricane Katrina. In order to work to address the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the state and national government were primarily involved in the cleanup, as there was not much left of the local government in the areas hardest hit by the storm itself. In spite of this, those who held positions of responsibility, police, firemen, EMTs, and the like, all worked to assist in whatever capacity they could while they were on site. Those on site worked to try to coordinate with the state government, and the state government was responsible for coordinating with the national governmental response to the situation.
During the response and recovery phases various technologies were used, including telephones, where service was available, cell phones where service was available, satellite phones where service was available, along with email and other forms of internet communication where available. Technology was used in order to determine if wires were live or not, to provide a means of transportation for supplies and individuals, to provide medical assistance to those who needed it. Additional technologies were utilized for search and recovery, for flyovers, and for the retrieval and storage of bodies as well as the technologies used in order to work to repair the levees. The tools, equipment, and technologies that could have significantly improved relief efforts would not necessarily consist of different tools, equipment, and technologies, but would include the technologies used in greater numbers, and the transportation of those tools, equipment, and technologies to the individuals on site sooner than they were received. The quicker the materials could have been received, the more expediently the relief efforts would have moved forward. If one had to be recommended, however, it would be suggested that water purifiers were to be provided to individuals on site. No special technologies, or scientific developments were used to restore the situation back to normal, only the simple process of humans doing the best they can to rebuild in the quickest time possible with the tools, resources, and equipment that were available to them at the time.
It should not be the responsibility of either federal, state, or local governments on their own to provide funding for the tools, equipment, and technologies used in the relief efforts, but rather all three should work together in order to work to provide the tools that are needed for the job at hand, as a catastrophe situation is not one that occurs on a daily basis. Hurricane warning systems were used to notify individuals of the projected path of the hurricane, its strength, and the projected times for it to hit land; however there was no indication that the levees would break, causing the occurrence to be far more catastrophic than it otherwise would. These are the best detection methods that we have at this time, and they were used effectively.
It is my recommendation that cities prone to hurricanes are provided with additional information regarding the potential courses of action that need to be taken in the event of a hurricane, the proper supplies that need to be laid in, and information be sent to all households regarding evacuation routes, should they be needed. Communication between agencies should be bolstered and tested in order to ensure that it is functioning properly; if this occurs, we can work to ensure no situation like Hurricane Katrina happens again.
- CNN. (2013, August 13). Hurricane Katrina statistics fast facts. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/index.html
- History.com. (2013). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/hurricane-katrina
- Hurricane Facts. (2013). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from http://www.hurricane-facts.com/Hurricane-Katrina-Facts.php
- Zimmermann, K. (2012, August 20). Hurricane Katrina: Facts, damage, and aftermath. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html