The initial response or lack thereof, to the widespread disaster in the Gulf Coast, caused by Hurricane Katrina, demonstrated high levels of incompetence and disorganization by government officials. Images of desperate individuals awaiting rescue on their rooftops, and masses of people packed together in deplorable conditions in the Super Dome, circulated the globe. There was no hiding from the painful reality and the obvious inaction or inability of those responsible to care for these individual in the wake of this catastrophe. (12, 791)
Although a considerable amount of the blame has been placed at the feet of FEMA, it should be understood that multiple factors contributed to the situation in New Orleans. Some sections of the levees had been poorly constructed, and were not properly maintained. Local agencies failed to adequately plan and prepare of such an event. Local officials waited too long to order an evacuation, and did not consider how to assist those citizens who lacked the financial resources evacuate on their own. (1,24)
Federal intervention in the aftermath of natural disasters began after the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. This 8.3 magnitude earthquake killed 478, and left over 250,000 homeless. While the disaster itself was obviously unavoidable, the subsequent fires that burned throughout the city were a result of poor planning. (1, 17) In an effort to consolidate existing programs, and to improve the nation’s level of preparedness, President Carter created FEMA in 1979. Initially, FEMA was praised for improving communication between various levels of government, and multiple agencies during a crisis. (1,19)
As part of the reorganization of the federal government in response to the events of September 11, 2001, FEMA was integrated as part of the Department of Homeland Security. The agencies budged and resources were subsequently redirected to address possibility of future terrorist attacks. As a result, FEMA was unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. After a state of emergency was declared, FEMA should have responded by working in coordination with state and local authorities to prepare for this disaster, but they did not. Nobody at FEMA or the DOD ordered essential supplies, such as food, water and medical supplies, to be deployed to the area. (3, 528)
Disasters are, by their very definition, rare events that overwhelm the capacity of normal public organizations. (1, 28) The relationship between the cities and county government was considered to be poor prior to the storm, so too was the relationship between the county and the state. It is believed that these poor relations contributed to the poor response and recovery efforts. (1, 15)
Many of the obstacles and complications encountered during Hurricane Katrina may have been avoided if the training exercise labeled “Hurricane Pam” would have been completed in 2004. The fictional exercise was five-days long, and was intended...