Response to Hurricane Katrina Essay

Response to Hurricane Katrina


Bureaucratic/ hierarchical model: This model is basically a top-down approach and it uses authority to create and coordinate a horizontal and vertical division of labour. Under this model, knowledge is treated as a scarce resource and the advantage of this model is that it provides a forum for employing a large number of people and preserves ambiguous accountability for the work that is carried out. In this model the command shared by the higher authority compels others to respond accordingly. This system creates leaders as it is one or a group of persons/ experts in their respective field who take the command and are thus held responsible and accountable in all phases of disaster management. Since there is a chain of command, it is the necessary that the person in command to have good leadership skills.

For successful disaster management there is a need for coordination within the organization and with various stakeholders who play a key role in disaster management. The hierarchical model “rests on the notion that the organizations to be coordinated have been identified or can readily be identified by the headquarters coordinators; that the relationships of these organizations to each other are well understood; that agreement has been reached about what objectives will be accomplished by altering certain of these inter-organizational relationships; and that the authority and means to effectuate desired goals exist to alter the relationships in the desired direction. It assumes hierarchy will facilitate the implementation” (Wise 2002a, 141). However, research shows that to carry out routine task this model acts best and delivers the best of the results. But, in areas where there is innovative task involved or there is a need to generate new knowledge the model has failed. The Incident Command System (ICS) is the best approach which explains this model.

Networking Model: For effective disaster management there is a need to have a multi- stakeholder approach involving all the players who play a key role at various levels (federal, state and local levels).  Some of the key players are the government which also involves the military and research or specialized research institutes, NGOS/INGOs, corporate, media etc. the networking model emphasizes on building up successful partnerships within these stakeholders. However, it is necessary that networking with the stakeholders takes place so as to access knowledge and technology and to guide, steer, control and manage a disaster. From the network perspective, the emphasis is placed on structuring organizations, and organizational arrangements in government so that government organizations can play a positive role in setting the stage for other organizations in the inter-organizational fields to interact to accomplish common goals (Wise 1990, 151).

The major disadvantage with this model is that accountability is diffused whereas; the hierarchical model has greater accountability. To access the performance in the networking model would mean not only to access the performance of the individual agencies but also the joint action of multiple agencies (Wise and Nader, 2006).

In my opinion, for effective disaster management, there is no one particular model that can be recommended as the situation for each disaster scenario varies. The key determinants for the success of effective organizational structuring and functioning include the nature of the tasks the organizations are to perform and the nature of the environment in with they are embedded (Mintzberg 1980, 1993; Thompson 1967; Williamson 1975,1990).

A.2 Hypothetical scenario for implementation of  ‘adaptive management’ approach

Early warning has been issued by the Homeland Security informing the likelihood of landfall of a hurricane in the east coast of United States. The federal, state and the local government were put on alert. Looking at the intensity of the hurricane a red alert warning was issued and the people were asked to evacuate. At the state level an emergency meeting of  all the heads of key stakeholders (government departments, non-profit organizations, corporate etc.) was called to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder and the procedures to be adopted to operate across agency boundaries; take stock of relief materials available; planning for evacuation, search and rescue; establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanism acceptable to all, etc. Based on the decisions taken, plans were prepared to meet the goals and reduce the gaps to the best possible. The goals set by each stakeholders through a consultative manner were successfully implemented. Assigning responsibility to all stakeholders helped the homeland security to have sufficient trained professionals in place and this made everyone feel responsible for the task that they were supposed to carry out. The collaborative approach adopted helped them to have specialized agencies with professionals to accomplish the task instead of one agency/organization taking the lead. Assigning task to various agencies led to signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between agencies thereby establishing a strong network within agencies. Evaluation of the task carried out was not just evaluating the organization, but also the evaluating individual performance.

A.3 Recommended  management approach.

There is no management approach that is perfect and would work safe and successful in any given time and at any given scenario. Depending on the planning and the conditions prevalent, there is a need to decide the management approach. However, for hurricane Katrina the best management approach that is advisable is the ‘adaptive management’ approach, where planning and implementation in done in a collaborative manner at all administrative level. With the change in technology, people’s expectation and demand for more sophisticated protection and services, or for the greater variety of skills, knowledge and resources, there is a need to network with all the stakeholders. This would help the homeland security have professionals in place who would be able to implement the assigned task in a successful manner. It would further develop strong network within stakeholders and each stakeholder would feel involved and accountable. However, sometimes the hierarchical model with a well established ICS mechanism would be acceptable. The selection of management approach however depends on the  situation and the type of disaster.