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Real Catastrophe of New Orleans, Term Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1760

Term Paper

Comparative Case Studies –Hurricane Katrina and Pam

The simulated case study of Hurricane Pam and Hurricane Katrina when compared were almost like a hand fitting as glove, except for a number of differences, which should have served to mitigated the devastating effects that were experienced.

The presence of levees of the same height, the unwillingness of thousands of residents to timely obey evacuation orders due  to the fact that they wanted to leave their inheritances for their children, the lack of a proper  physical defense against a category 4 or 5 storms as measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the outmoded culture of the FEMA executives to maintain the response function of Emergency Management  as the dominant force, rather than embracing preparedness, as well as the limited resource funding obtained annually from state and local governments and almost total funding of preparedness by the private and commercial utilities, were some of the similarities that existed in both the simulation effort and the actual hurricane.

Additionally,there was the federal, local, state and non- profit organizationalresources available for utilization in responding to the demands made by the leadership of the crises, as well as the latest technology to track and predict the hurricane well in advance of it hitting land; so that residents could be evacuated out safely, according to McQuaid and Schleifstein (2009).

What was critically needed was available but not utilized, and could in part be blamed for the high death toll and other devastations that resulted. According to Haddon, Bullock, and Coppola (2010), in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina it could be seen that there was a lack of leadership, lack of timely information, communications failure, little or no focus on the preparedness aspect of emergency management, poor construction work on the levees, failure of FEMA management to effectively coordinate all the resource in the directions they were needed.

It could also be argued that the lack of the requisite crisis skills like architecture, engineering, geology, cartography, and building code designs and enforcement as well as a lack of proper understanding of the importance of placing equal emphasis on all aspects of Emergency Management such as preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation among  the managers of FEMA and other related organizations, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, were among what made the difference  between the outcomes of  Pat and Katrina hurricanes (Haddon, et al 2009).

The Simulation Exercise may have assumed that these skills inherent in the organizational structure during the application of the model will be activated should there be a hurricane, but in the real situation they, as well as the other vital functions and applications were missing, and caused over 25,000 to 100, 000 people to become isolated with hundreds dying in the process.

The technology in place before Hurricane Katrina included the provision of Advance Warning Systems by National Weather Service,  a 1-800 number and companion Website to make water rescue, computer simulated models to predict the impact of different categories of hurricane on the levees and surrounding areas, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and very limited Geospatial Technology, according to Decapua and Bhaduri (2007).

The GIS had the capacity to access data at local, State, and Federal levels, and used them to gather resources necessary to save lives during the disaster, while Geospatial Technology is able to ensure collection, analyses, and visualization of geographic information. The technology has the capability to integrate diverse and disparate data and make it acceptable according to Decapua and Bhaduri (2007).

In terms of the Advanced Warning Systems, it’s use was maximized in terms of 72 -84 hours required for people to evacuate, the category of the hurricane, the impact on the levees, and the consequences of riding out the storm. However, the local geography could not accommodate 1 million people striving to reach the 80 mile zone of safety, due to limitations of escape routes, and resistance by members of the population to leave for generational reasons according to Haddon et al (2009).

During Hurricane Katrina, according to Decapua and Bhaduri (2007), limited use was made of Geospatial Technology, in that 70 % of the police force of New Orleans was immobilized and law enforcement officers from other areas had to be called in. The technology could have been used to develop maps that include roads and infrastructures to guide first responders, as well as provide information on water supplies, electricity generation, baseball fields that helicopter could land on, so that the loss of lives could be mitigated.

With respect to the  water rescue technology, according to Conzelmann, Sleavin, and Courvillion (2005), the major concern of local State, and Federal agencies during Katrina and Rita was the safe and rescue and the evacuation of people from Southern Louisiana, but even before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) saw the potential for disaster, and had activated a 1-800 number and companion Website that could be used to request rescues that were water related.

The technology was utilized infrequently before the hurricane and afterwards, but during the disaster according to Conzelmann, Sleavin, and Courvillion (2005), a total of 23,087 calls for rescue were received and  processed for actions using Geoaddressing or address matching, which according to ESRI (1992), is a process of using the lines of longitude and latitude to determine the location of addresses with the 2000TIGER/ Line as data reference set.

The Director of FEMA as well as Federal, State, and local government officers were responsible for making all the decisions regarding the maximization of the resources of the State, local, Federal, non-profit organizations and donors across the country, to meet the needs of victims of the hurricane, but the authority of  FEMA had been subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security, according to Haddon et al (2010) and become ineffective and deficient in finances, due to its  national focus on terrorism. The Federal and state officials also for various reasons, inclusive of shortage of financial resources, failed to provide the leadership required.

In terms of communication and coordination with stakeholders, the elected officials as well as the FEMA managers, failed to effectively communicate with each other and with the general public, and as a result the necessary actions to ensure delivery of services and vitally needed materials proved inadequate. The blame in part, according to Haddon et al (2010), could be laid at the feet of FEMA, because the leaders failed to marshal and direct the full resources of the Federal Government, to provide the support the state and local entities needed to function.

Additionally, according to Haddon et al (2010), FEMA department caused the National Response Plan of which it was the designated leader, to ineffectively direct the actions of other federal agencies, by making poor and untimely decisions across all levels of these organizations.

The contributions of the private sector, non government entities and voluntary agencies were outstanding, according to Haddon et al (2010), in spite of the poor decision makingof the state, local community, Federal and FEMA directors, who had the highest levels of technology (Geospatial Technology, GIS, AWAS) available but failed to provide resources such as computers, plotters, internet access and electricity to  effectively support the relief efforts (Decapua, Bhaduri,2007).

Funding for the preparedness aspects of Emergency Management in terms of offsite preparedness planning at power plants, were funded annually by private and commercial groups prior to the national disasters, and this together with their inputs during Hurricane Katrina, makes their contribution to the relief efforts quite outstanding, in spite of poor governmental leadership ( Haddon et al, 2010).

The consequences of the decisions by the various levels of government seems unproductive,  in the sense that when the Obama Administration came into office, it changed the leadership of FEMA and further reduced it role, by assigning HUD  the responsibility for the housing aspects of the Emergency Management operations.

Thereby confirming the inefficiencies and effectiveness of this department in its functioning relationships with other State, local, Federal, private, commercial entities as well as voluntary and non-profit organizations in the past.

The contribution of the private institutions regarding preparedness may in the long run,may have national impact, in that in 2009 FEMA announced that it was making the advancement of this aspect of Emergency Management a priority, according to Haddon et al (2010), and that individuals impacted by disasters will be challenged to become survivors, rather than victims. However only future outcomes based on what policies and practices are implemented, will decide whether this goal will be successful or not.

Conclusion

In retrospect one major lessons that all should learn regarding Hurricane Katrina, is that regardless of the technology and resources a country or state may have at its disposal, if they are not applied under astute leadership, millions of people will continue to suffer. The technologies were workable but the workers were not engaged, the information in some cases were made available, but albeit too late, and the nation was embarrassed internationally.

One of the major reasons for the failures according to Haddon et al (2010), was the lack of the requisite training and skill set among the management of FEMA and their inability to adopt in times of crisis. This may have very well had led  to the lack of appreciation of the technological importance that was required to employ human resources to collect data across all levels of government, so that they could be integrated and allowed access to the  national government centralized data. Access to this data during the hurricane, would have enhanced the decision making process considerably and enable scarce resources to be distributed to the various delivery points in the regions, where they were needed to save lives and gradually mitigate the effects of the hurricane.

Finally, the experience of Hurricane Katrina; with the loss of thousands of lives, properties  and businesses, should point all to the vital importance of leadership in times of crisis  at all levels of government, especially in the applications and financing of all aspects of Emergency Management prior to a natural disaster. The training and preparations  that are proactively provided, will always impact significantly on the amount of lives that are saved at the end of the cycle.

Reference

Decapua, C., Bhaduri, B., (2007). Applications of Geospatial Technology in International Disasters and During Hurricane Katrina www.gri.msstate.edu/research/katrinalessons/documents/Geosp_Tech_Applications.pdf , 08/24/11

Haddon, G., Bullock, J., Coppola, D., (2007). 4th edition Introduction to Emergency Management- Chapter10 Butterworth-Heinemann Boston, MA

McQuaid, J., Schleifstein, S. (2009). Special Report: Washing Away  The Times- Picayne  www.nola.com/washingaway/index.html , 08/23/11

Conzelmann, C.P., Sleavin, W., & Courvillion, B., (2005). Using Geospatial Technology to Process 911 Calls after Hurricane Katrina and Rita  www.pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1306/pdf/c1306_ch3_b1.pdf , 08/24/11

ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.) (1992).Understanding GIS the Arc/Info Method  ESRI Press, Redlands, CA p. xxxix

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