Government Response To Hurricane Katrina
The preparation and response to Katrina by the government exposed the its inability to adequately handle such disasters. The role of federal, state and local government in preparation and responding to disasters was highly debated upon after the Katrina storm which claimed many of the American citizens’ lives. Scenes of citizens without basic needs, death by starvation and thirst, shaken politicians- all was displayed in the media showing the level of helplessness not only among the victims but also among the relevant authorities. The blame was entirely directed to the government for it was claimed by some sectors that its policies with regard to handling the disaster worsened instead of making things better. The measures that it adopted led to more casualties. The response by the government was not timely besides making it difficult for volunteers to step in and carry out rescue operations. There were three notable mistakes which the government made with regard to coordinating response to the disaster. (Singer, Howell 2005)
The area which was worst hit, New Orleans, already suffered from high level of poverty. More than 120,000 people could not access private transportation. When a compulsory order of evacuation was made by the government 22 hours before the storm hit, provisions were not made to evacuate this population which could not access private transport. Even though FEMA offered to provide transport within 48 hours before the storm, the residents were left to struggle on their own after the storm. The population of the state which has a poor majority could not make it without any assistance. This therefore made the casualty to be high due to the inability of the government to take adequate measures of ensuring that the majority of the population was evacuated. (O’Brien, 2005)
The response by the federal government was slow. Requests for assistance through the relevant chains of command were not realized owing to the delays by the local and state authorities to engage FEMA for federal assistance. The response was also slow because of the amount of time taken by FEMA to put its force in place. It spent much time ensuring that its team was well coordinated besides waiting for commands from the government. The situation was traumatic for the workers and local police due to lack of sufficient reinforcement. Report shows that local entities exhibited a higher level of response than federal and national organization. The delay in response can be attributed to the level of bureaucracy which exists within the federal entities. In most instances, the national organization and federal staff lacked flexibility to deal with the situation on the ground. (Tapper, 2005) The government thus overlooked the magnitude of the situation thus did not provide sufficient manpower within the required time thus making thus elevating the number of casualties.
There was lack of coordination between federal agencies relief organization and FEMA. FEMA did not seek to coordinate its operations with those of other agencies to facilitate rescue effort. This made these other agencies to hesitate on their rescue programs since they sought confirmation from FEMA. It has been claimed that this was a deliberate effort by FEMA since it assumed it had the resources and authority to execute the operations without support. Support by other organizations and groups were frustrated by FEMA. It blocked the efforts by various private entities to aid in the transportation and supply of necessities to the victims. Had it allowed and embraced support by these private groupings lending a hand to their fellow citizens, the casualty may have been reduced to a great degree.
O’Brien, Keith ; Bender, Brian. “Chronology of Errors: How Disaster Strike.” Boston Globe. (Sep. 11, 2005)
Singer, L., Howell, J. (2005) A Continuing Storm: The Ongoing Struggles of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees. Retrieved 2008/9/24
Tapper, J., “Amid Katrina Chaos”. ABC News. Sept. 13th, 2005