| Brittney King
Hurricane Katrina Essay Test
1. Describe the specific collaboration that occurred between different public health and law enforcement agencies.
On Sunday August 28th, 2005, the National Weather Service released severe weather warnings over Mississippi and Louisiana, announcing the coming of Hurricane Katrina. However, when this happened, the federal government did not give the warnings the attention they deserved. On August 29th, the storm began to hit land, making way
to it one of the worst natural disasters in American history. When this occurred, public health agencies began coordinating with the federal government and law enforcement to respond to the disaster, focusing on sanitation and hygiene, water safety, environmental health, and access to care (Teitelbaum & Wilensky, 2013). The Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health all took action, assisting in the care of these affected states. To assist in this, the Louisiana Department of Transportation committed their department to transportation of at-risk populations for evacuation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security began taking action for evacuation as well (Lipton, 2005).
As Hurricane Katrina struck land, it over took radio antennas and power lines, disconnecting various sheriffs’ offices from communicating with other law enforcement and public health groups. The New Orleans Police Department was without communication for multiple days, making it extremely difficult to collaborate with other agencies (History, 2014).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency pushed for state and local government to take charge as Hurricane Katrina struck, however these systems were overwhelmed (Moynihan, 2009); causing confusion between these two groups. The Department of Health and Human Services was supposed to take the lead in victim identification, however they were delayed in doing so; eventually causing the Department of Defense to step up and take the lead (Moynihan, 2009). As a whole, communication between law enforcement and public health agencies was weak. Many barriers, and a lack of preparation caused these parties to not operate at maximum potential, and not work together cooperatively. FANTASTIC ANSWER! BEST IN THE CLASS! 12/12
2. Did volunteer agencies help or hinder? Explain.
I believe that volunteer agencies helped with the disaster relief efforts of hurricane Katrina, however some miscommunications were present as well. As many public health and federal government agencies were feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for the effects of the disaster, volunteer agencies such as the American Red Cross, the United Way, and AmeriCorps began bringing thousands of volunteers to assist in recovery, funds to assist in recovery cost, and supplies to assist in medical and supplemental needs. For example, after Hurricane Katrina struck, the American Red Cross (ARC) provided 1,400 evacuation shelters for survivors across 31 states, 68 million hot meals and snacks, and assistance that allowed 1.4 million families to purchase necessities such as food, clothing, and other basic needs (ARC, 2014). Through donations from many volunteers, the ARC provided 2.188 billion dollars in funding for Hurricane Katrina relief (ARC, 2014), again proving the positive effects that came from volunteers across America.
Although many positive effects came from the assistance of ARC, communications between ARC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) caused many problems. As ARC communicated logistic needs to FEMA, FEMA did not deliver the supplies, and when they did, they were often times late or insufficient quantities (Moynihan, 2009). As the ARC scheduled orders for ready to eat meals, FEMA often canceled orders last minute, or rescheduled delivery dates, making it extremely difficult to coordinate provisions for those in need (Moynihan, 2009). Because of this lack of communication, and insufficient supply of services and goods, the helping potential of this volunteer agency was extremely limited. In addition, the federal government was unable to provide the food, housing, and operational needs of so many volunteers. 11/12
3. Describe at least 3 major things that responders did wrong.
The first decision made by responders that had negative implications during the Hurricane Katrina disaster occurred before the hurricane touched land. On August 23, 2005, the National Weather Service declared a tropical depression, causing the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi to declare a state of emergency, and for President George W. Bush to do the same (Moynihan, 2009). The hurricane struck just one week later, providing little time for response from responders such as Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. Although warnings were released by the National Weather Service days before the hurricane struck, it took until Sunday August, 28th for the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin to declare a mandatory evacuation (Moynihan, 2009). This was far too late for many citizens to leave the city. This inability to respond quickly, and choosing to ignore warning signs of a disaster caused many lives to be taken that could have potentially been spared if action would have been taken sooner by responders.
Another critical decision was that of the means of communication responders relied on. As Hurricane Katrina struck, over 3 million power lines were downed, meaning that the use of cell phones, land lines, 911 services, and almost all communication devices were lost (Moynihan, 2009). When this occurred, responders were unable to gain situational awareness of the disaster, or to formulate a plan of attack in rescue and recovery. Emergency Operation Centers were also out of use because of flooding from the levee breaks, which wasted valuable time as responders spent time searching for recovery sites instead of actively helping those in need (Moynihan, 2009). This lack of communication and coordination were all things that could and should have been dealt with earlier, during the Hurricane Pam trial in 2004, and the creation of the National Response Plan by the Department of Health and Human Services. Levees that broke, causing these issues should have been predicted, as they had been previously assessed as dangerous and unreliable, so depending on them to protect Emergency Operation Centers seems unreliable.
A third critical decision was the dependence that was placed on transportation of goods, services, and citizens alike. As the hurricane struck, the transportation of food, water, and medical supplies was extremely limited due to flooded roadways and service centers. However the warning signs of this disaster were present long before the storm struck. This time needed to be used for prepping locations for medical services and other provisions, acknowledging the potential for roads that were not drivable or operable for use.
A final negative decision made came from the Louisiana State Health official who chose to turn down federal and medical assistance that was offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just two days after Hurricane Katrina struck (Lipton, 2005). The HHS was willing to assist in moving victims out of harms way, however the state of Louisiana chose to turn down this assistance, which could have potentially saved many lives. Exactly how this could have affected the outcome for victims in Louisiana, we can’t determine exactly, however it is clear that the state was in no place to turn down assistance, and chose to anyway. Great answer! 12/12
3. Describe at least 3 things responders did right.
The decision to evacuate New Orleans occurred with very limited notice for citizens of the city, acknowledging that many of them did not own vehicles for evacuation. In order to assist in this last minute evacuation, the Department of Homeland Security contacted Johnny B. Bradberry, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation (Lipton, 2005). In doing so, an agreement was made to mobilize local transportation means for emergency evacuations of at-risk populations. This assistance in evacuation services allowed for quick movement with limited time to work with. Without this decision, the number of individuals evacuated could have been much smaller.
Responders of the Food and Drug Administration provided valuable information related to proper handling of food with power outages, assuring those affected weren’t consuming contaminated foods, while also addressing water contamination standards and procedures. They provided bottled water for those affected, as well as instructions for sanitizing water before consuming it (FDA, 2005). They also issued recommendations for handling medications that may have been affected or needed as a result of the flood (Teitelbaum & Wilensky, 2013). Without these services, many individuals could have starved, or died from consuming contaminated foods or water, or from not receiving proper medication regimens. These services, although delayed and unorganized, benefited those affected by Hurricane Katrina tremendously.
Finally, volunteer efforts made by responders after Hurricane Katrina struck helped save many lives, and help many families get back on their feet. This was evident by the tremendous efforts of agencies like Volunteers of America, The United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, and AmeriCorps. All of these agencies assisted in providing funding, rebuilding homes, serving meals, and all other provisions necessary for providing quality of life to the thousands of survivors of Hurricane Katrina who were now homeless with nowhere to go. Good answer! 12/12
5. How did public health agencies function and did they do so in a timely fashion? Explain.
Public health agencies such as the FDA, HHS, and ARC all functioned, but in a delayed and very limited manner. As previously discussed, these agencies were all informed of the disaster extremely late, and reacted with very limited time to prepare. When the agencies arrived to the disaster site, levees have broke, causing severe flooding of roadways, as well as Emergency Service Centers. The prohibited the agencies from providing services, as they needed to first seek out safe locations to establish their base. Once this was achieved, resources were extremely limited as well, as bringing in products such as medical equipment and medications, food, clothing, diapers, and other provisions was very difficult.
Many individuals in need of assistance did not receive the care they needed, because public health agencies were unable to prepare necessary resources in time to meet those needs. Remembering that the National Weather Service and FEMA warned our country of the threat of a severe natural disaster threat days before Hurricane Katrina touched down in the United States, it is fair to say that these public health agencies did not function in a timely manner. However also remembering that the mandatory evacuation was not made until the day before the hurricane struck, it is also safe to say that the damage done and lives affected by the disaster were much larger than necessary for these agencies to deal with. Great answer! 12/12
6. Based on your readings, what were the specific roles of the local, state, and federal governments and answer whether each branch fulfilled their roles. Explain your reasoning and provide justification.
As Hurricane Katrina presented itself, the local and state governments were responsible for warning the general public of the dangers ahead. It was their responsibility to begin putting local evacuation procedures in to place, and prepare themselves for what was to come. States are responsible for developing their own emergency preparedness plans based on the needs of their specific state (Teitelbaum & Wilensky, 2013). Meaning that states such as Louisiana and Mississippi should have had detailed preparedness plans in the event that a hurricane struck. However, state and local governments failed to respond to the warnings of the coming of Hurricane Katrina until August 28th, the day before the storm struck land, even though the National Weather Service issued detailed warnings of the hurricane days before it struck, yet mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, did not order a mandatory evacuation until the day before (Moynihan, 2009).
The federal government is responsible for supporting the preparedness plans created by individual states via public health agencies that provide nationwide services (Teitelbaum & Wilensky, 2013). However in the instance of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government failed to adequately anticipate the needs of the state and local government; and this lack of communication and coordination resulted in limited resources, and delayed response times to the disaster and all who were in need of help (Teitelbaum & Wilensky, 2013).
As a whole, the local, state, and federal governments all fulfilled their duties, however extremely delayed, and with limited resources. As the local and state officials began taking steps to evacuate New Orleans much later than preferred, the federal government failed to fulfill their duties to the fullest as well. The disaster preparedness plans brought forth by the local, state, and federal government failed to operate optimally, causing many individuals to suffer. I agree with your assessment. A more detailed explanation of the roles and the actual fulfillment of them during Katrina is provided in my comment; however, your answer was perfectly acceptable. 12/12
7. Discuss the challenges individuals and/or communities had with legal authority, control of resources, and jurisdiction over populations.
Many communities, individuals, and families faced challenges with legal authorities and resources due to a major lack of communication. The first example comes from the Coast Guard, who had a quick response to the disaster, and saved many lives, but instead of being thanked for this accomplishment, there was tension and anger from FEMA, the National Guard, and state agencies who were also conducting search and rescue operations (Moynihan, 2009). As these multiple groups executed search and rescues with no communication, many found themselves overlapping, searching the same neighborhoods twice, and leaving others unattended to; meaning that many individuals were not cared for appropriately by these groups. Another cause of this miscommunication came from new policies outlined in the new National Response Plan. These new policies were not well understood by these agencies, resulting in their lack of coordination in the post-Katrina events and procedure malfunctions (Moynihan, 2009).
Lack of control over resources and jurisdictions included the New Orleans Police Department, which had a reputation for being underpaid and having a poor ability of maintaining order, law, and professionalism (Moynihan, 2009). 133 police officers were let go from the department as a result of their inability to respond to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina; however they too had limited resources, and no access to food, uniforms, or ammunition (Moynihan, 2009). However as we assess the responses of local law enforcement, we must remember that the responses of state and local agencies were inadequate as well, making us question if we can really point a finger at one specific group of people. Great job!! Once again, the most comprehensive, and best answer in the class. I am posting my comprehensive response to the class and you will see how similar it is to yours. 12/12
8. Are current disaster management polices (federal, state, and local) sufficient to meet the needs of communities in the event of another disaster?
Since the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, the Post-Katrina Act was established in 2007. This act restores responsibilities to FEMA, holding the agency much more accountable for the management of emergency alert systems and operations (Bea, 2007). The Post-Katrina Act added 13 responsibilities for FEMA
, that assure first responder effectiveness in supervising grants, and administering and implementing the national response program (Bea, 2007).
Aside from making major changes and improvements to federal agencies like FEMA, the Center for Strategic International Studies also called for the need of better equipped infrastructures that could support intense weather happenings, keeping in mind that the ultimate effects of Hurricane Katrina were worsened with the breaking of levees (Nelson, Bodurian, and McEvoy, 2010).
aAct also looks to improve coordination between the local, state, and federal governments by dismantling the National Response Plan and creating the National Response Framework, which has so far proven successful during hurricanes of 2008 (Nelson, Bodurian, and McEvoy, 2010). Although changes and improvements have been made to the original National Response Plan used during Hurricane Katrina to prepare us for future natural disasters, we haven’t experienced a hurricane as catastrophic as Katrina, meaning its true potential has yet to be tested. However the National Response Framework has proven successful in dealing with hurricane Gustav and Ike in 2008 (Nelson, Bodurian, and McEvoy, 2010). For this reason, I cannot say with certainty that the emergency preparedness plan in place today would be totally effective in the event of a hurricane as powerful as Katrina. However I can say that coordination and communication lines between state, local, and federal government branches have been improved, and have proven successful thus far in the event of smaller hurricanes. For this reason, I can say that positive change have been made to prevent the challenges of Hurricane Katrina from occurring again. Great answer! I have used it as an example and posted it into about half of the other students papers as an “ideal” answer to this question. Super job! 12/12
American Red Cross (ARC). (2014). Hurricane Recovery Program. Retrieved from
Bea, Keith (2007).
Congressional Research Service. Federal emergency management
policy changes after hurricane Katrina:
aA summary of statutory provision. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from , http://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL33729.pdf
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2005). FDA offers valuable food safety
information for hurricane Katrina aftermath. Retrieved from
History. (2014). Hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from
Lipton, Eric. (2005).
New York Times. Key documents regarding the hurricane Katrina
response. New York Times. Retrieved from
Moynihan, D. P. (2009).
International Risk Governance Council. The response to
hurricane Katrina. International Risk Governance Council. Retrieved from
Nelson, R., Bodurian, B., McEvoy, A. (2010).
Center for Strategic and International
Studies. Five years after Katrina. Center for Strategic and International
Studies. Retrieved from
Teitelbaum, J. B., Wilensky S. E. (2013). Essentials of Health Policy and Law. (2nd
Ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning
Content Sore: 95/96
Total = 96/100 – second highest grade in the class, by only 2 points, one of which, was on references (meaning your content was 95; hers was 96)