The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina At One Year - A Recap...

Back in February, I posted segments of an article from Popular Mechanics, which I thought was one of the most balanced analysis put in layman's terms of how Katrina and its aftermath were handled. That post can be found here:

What I'd like to do today is repost a portion of that for all of you:

Published in the March, 2006 issue.
Now What?
The Lessons of Katrina


MYTH:"The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors.

In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops inthe Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

These units had help from local, state and national responders, including five helicopters from the Navy ship Bataan and choppers from the Air Force and police. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched250 agents in boats. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state police and sheriffs' departments launched rescue flotillas. By Wednesday morning, volunteers and national teams joined the effort, including eight units from California's Swift Water Rescue. By Sept. 8, the waterborne operation had rescued 20,000.

While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.

NEXT TIME: Any fatalities are too many. Improvements hinge on building more robust communications networks and stepping up predisaster planning to better coordinate local and national resources.


Improving Response

ONE OF THE BIGGEST reminders from Katrina is that FEMA is not a first responder. It was local and state agencies that got there first and saved lives. Where the feds can contribute is in planning and helping to pay for a coordinated response. Here are a few concrete steps.

Think Locally: "Every disaster starts and ends as a local event," says Ed Jacoby, who managed New York state's emergency response to 9/11. All municipalities must assess their own risk of disasters--both natural and man-made.

Include Business Help: "Companies realize that if a city shuts down, they shut down," says Barry Scanlon, former FEMA director of corporate affairs. During Katrina, many companies coordinated their own mini relief efforts. That organizational power can augment public disaster management. "If 10 Fortune 100 members made a commitment to the Department of HomelandSecurity," says Scanlon, "the country would take a huge leap forward."

Prearrange Contracts: Recovery costs skyrocket with high demand during a crisis. Contracts with local firms must be signed before disaster strikes."You know beforehand that everyone is ready to move," says Kate Hale, emergency management director of Florida's Miami-Dade County during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. "The government blows the whistle and the contractors go to work."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Katrina coverage is unreal. Take a look at

August 31, 2006 7:24 PM

Anonymous Fred said...

This [] is beyond a doubt one of the better remarks on the Katrina debacle I've ever read.

September 09, 2006 2:25 AM

Anonymous A. Christensen Johnson said...

I haven't mentioned this on my blog, but I actually moved to Northeast Oklahoma directly after hurricanes Katrina and Rita from Hammond, LA, which is in Tangipahoa Parish. That's roughly 30 minutes outside of New Orleans, just right across the lake, so, to answer the question you're going to want to ask, yes, my family and I were affected. The irony, of course, is that we moved to the Northshore after hurricane Ivan from New Orleans. From my perspective, sitting with my family in front oof the radio by candle light, I heard the biggest whing I've heard in my life, and it wasn't coming from my kids. I heard these people on the radio complaining about government, and i thought, "What the heck do you people want, should George Bush ride into the Superdome on a white horse and start carrying people to safety? When you live in a hurricane-prone area, you should be prepared. It really showed how much of the spirit of independence we have lost here in America.

March 19, 2007 7:43 PM

Blogger Andrew Langer said...

AC -

Thanks for the comments. It's funny you should mention that subject - I was in New Jersey giving a series of speeches this week, and the very issue of dependence on government came up as a point of discussion yesterday morning.

March 22, 2007 9:22 PM


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