The Western Atlantic region has been struck by hurricanes many times, suffering serious damages in the process. Hurricanes usually include heavy storms and fast and strong winds. The United States is one of the countries that have been on the receiving end as far as the hurricanes are concerned. Out of the various hurricanes that have occurred in the US, Hurricane Katrina is among the worst since it caused the biggest loss in US history. This paper revisits Hurricane Katrina to scrutinize pertinent issues related to this infamous disaster. The paper examines the background of Hurricane Katrina, past disasters in the region, demographics and geography of the area and outstanding issues in mitigation efforts. Furthermore, the paper briefly examines the major stakeholders involved, the communication regime that was deployed, training and exercise as well as the aftermath and future directions for the affected community.
Background on the Disaster
Hurricane Katrina is a deadly disaster that was experienced in the US coastal region and the neighboring areas in August 2005 (Forgette et al., 2009). The hurricane’s origin was traced to the Bahamas where a tropical wave came into contact with a tropical depression. Afterward, it escalated into a storm and moved to Hallandale Beach. In fact, Hallandale Beach and its surroundings were hit by the storm on August 24, a day after the hurricane started. Subsequently, the tropical storm became stronger which caused disastrous consequences for Keating beach. It is at this point that it developed into a hurricane which struck the Gulf of Mexico. However, this hurricane weakened slightly before striking Southeast Louisiana. On August 28, Hurricane Katrina grew stronger reaching Category 5 status at dawn. After causing landfall in different parts of the region, the hurricane began weaken. At the close of the month, the hurricane had been weakened to the level of a tropical depression.
Past Disasters for the Area
Hurricane Katrina made the country realize that it had not learned lessons from previous calamities. Before Hurricane Katrina, various disasters had hit the Gulf coast, most of which were experienced between the 1st of June and the 30th of November (Forgette et al., 2009). In February 1884, Ohio was hit by a serious flood, which affected the regions of Ohio and Covington (Daniels et al., 2011). Moreover, in January 1907, there was flooding along Ohio River. In July 1909, a hurricane struck the coastline of Texas. What is more, this state was struck by yet another hurricane accompanied by floods in October 1912 (Daniels et al., 2011). Furthermore, Florida experienced fatal hurricanes twice in 1935 in the months of September and November (Forgette et al., 2009). Such data shows that the US coastal region is prone to natural disasters, especially those involving heavy storms and strong winds.
Demographics and Geographic Region
Hurricane Katrina is perceived as one of the worst natural disasters ever experienced in the US because it caused massive destruction of property and claimed a considerable number of lives. After the disaster, over 1,836 people were confirmed dead in various places where the hurricane had caused landfalls (Daniels et al., 2011). Areas within the Gulf coast, especially the region stretching from Texas to Florida, were the most affected. Louisiana and Mississippi had the highest death tolls, registering 1,577 and 238 deaths respectively (Daniels et al., 2011). Ohio was also affected and lost 14 people during the calamity (Daniels et al., 2011). In Louisiana, the levee system that had been built to protect the region during such calamities failed giving way to serious floods that covered over 80% of the region (Daniels et al., 2011). Talking about the property, it was heavily damaged since in some cases, floodwaters pushed it several miles away from the beach. It is estimated that the hurricane affected over 90,000 square miles in the United States alone (Daniels et al., 2011).
Key Issues for Commencing the Mitigation Project
Hurricane Katrina was a disaster that had many dimensions because it affected both physical and cultural aspect of the region where it caused landfalls. One of the main issues that necessitated the commencement of a mitigation project following the disaster was governance. The roles played by various stakeholders during and after the disaster had to be clearly defined to make it easier to face such disasters in the future. The National Response Plan also came under scrutiny because the plans that it offered failed to provide the desired solution (Daniels et al., 2011). While the region had suffered a series of disasters in the past, Hurricane Katrina was a bigger trial; thus, response teams were overwhelmed by the disaster. Therefore, the mitigation project was to include an improved National Response Plan. Moreover, environmental impacts were a major issue because the disaster led to secondary environmental hazards which had to be addressed in the mitigation project. Furthermore, mitigation efforts were focused on the identification of vulnerable groups and determination of the extent to which they are affected in the event of such a disaster. The issue was considered before commencing the mitigation project to insure that evacuation procedures would be improved.
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Key Stakeholders Involved
Various stakeholders were brought together by the Hurricane Katrina disaster either as responders or as part of the team that worked on the mitigation project. In both cases, the government, the public sector and the private sector joined efforts as they worked to solve the problems at hand (Roberts, 2006). Local governments worked in collaboration with the federal government to insure that their efforts were directed toward a common goal. The National Response Plan defined the roles of each stakeholder to minimize cases of confusion among the involved stakeholders. Given the magnitude of the calamity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinated the activities of the various stakeholders (Roberts, 2006). Furthermore, various organizations from the private sector were contracted to offer services. Thus, all these stakeholders were to work toward helping the area recover and put in place protective measures should such disaster strike in the future.
Types of Communication and Communication Systems Involved
It has been mentioned herein that various stakeholders were involved in responding to Hurricane Katrina and formulating recovery strategies. Given the diversity of the stakeholders, there was a need for a communication system. In fact, when disasters occur, communication is usually conducted by Emergency Operations Centers to insure that activities are well-coordinated. The main mode of communication involved is both landlines and wireless telephones. When such incident strikes, there are some parties to contact such as local parishes, officials in the federal government as well as volunteer groups. The Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) is in charge of issuing commands at the national level (Roberts, 2006). Coordinating officers at the state level have to work with the FCO to insure that state activities complement interventions of the federal government. The Department of Defense usually collaborates with the Principle Federal Government being its representative on the ground. During Hurricane Katrina, Joint Task Force Katrina was involved in providing directions to a special force from the Department of Defense (Roberts, 2006). The problem is that the various communication channels created confusion during Hurricane Katrina because directing authority was not defined; thus, state governments have since devised emergency response systems.
Multi-Jurisdictional Response Initiatives
Following Hurricane Katrina and a series of numerous other calamities, efforts have been made to strengthen the nation’s preparedness. While different entities have devised response initiatives, measures have been put in place to insure that all of them are directed toward achieving the above-mentioned goal. Therefore, a Target Capabilities List (TCL) was developed to specify the capabilities that stakeholders have to possess as far as disaster preparedness is concerned (Roberts, 2006). The target was to insure that the government, the private sector and members of the public possess these capabilities because all stakeholders should take efforts to respond to disaster. Endeavors to involve as many stakeholders as possible highlight the fact that although levels of authority and territorial jurisdictions vary, when disaster strikes, issues of entities crossing boundaries cannot be raised as long as activities are synchronized. For multi-jurisdictional response initiatives to be successful there was a need for regional collaboration expansion (Forgette et al., 2009). Thus, this makes it possible to implement the National Response Plan which requires a multi-disciplinary team given that it covers all types of disasters.
Training and Exercises
The military appeared to be overwhelmed when Hurricane Katrina struck despite the fact that considerable efforts were put into arresting the situation. Various calamities had been experienced in the past, but lessons learned from them were not incorporated in responses to subsequent calamities. For this reason, strategies have been devised to train the military and responders at all levels. In fact, the Controller General perceived training as urgent because pre-Katrina plans proved to be inadequate (Daniels et al., 2011). The motive behind the training was to insure that the military and responders have an understanding of the roles they are expected to play whenever a calamity occurs. Training includes regular exercises that can enable response teams to assess situations and execute appropriate responses. The goal of exercises is to make all stakeholders prepared for disaster. Hereby, this insures that difficulties in communication as well as integration and coordination of problems are eliminated early in advance.
Future Directions for the Affected Community Regarding Maintaining Stakeholders Buy-In, Funding and Any Challenges
The fact that disaster can strike any time makes it necessary for the country to remain prepared at all times. Therefore, the affected community should devise ways that will enable them to continue receiving stakeholders’ support. Thus, the community can freely share information among all the stakeholders who are involved. Apparently, the affected community can take advantage of the technological advancements that have made communication easier. Hereby, through constant communication, stakeholders can be updated on every development. As a result, stakeholders will be in a position to tell whether their support and/or funding are successful when they are updated on the progress being made. However, it should be noted that despite the fact that technology has eased communication, the use of social media has triggered many speculations. For this reason, some stakeholders may distance themselves when inaccurate information is shared. As a consequence, such stakeholders may withdraw their support (Zottarelli, 2010). However, the community can avoid such incidences by putting in place official communication channels that can be used to contact stakeholders. Thus, such step will minimize the spread of inaccurate information.
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Hurricane Katrina remains in history as one of the major natural calamities ever experienced in the Gulf coast. Louisiana was the most affected because it recorded most casualties. Hurricane Katrina made the country realize that it was not adequately prepared for calamities of such magnitude that prompted various stakeholders to join forces to devise a mitigation project. Owing to the fact that the US, especially the coastal regions, is prone to natural disasters, response initiatives were developed to insure that different entities work together, regardless of their territorial jurisdictions. The capabilities of all stakeholders were increased so that they could effectively work together. Many resources have been invested in training responders to insure that they are always ready for any type of disaster that may strike.