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Lessons from Katrina for Metropolitan Regions Louise K. Comfort Graduate School of Public & International Affairs University of Pittsburgh

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Presentation on theme: "Lessons from Katrina for Metropolitan Regions Louise K. Comfort Graduate School of Public & International Affairs University of Pittsburgh"— Presentation transcript:

1 Lessons from Katrina for Metropolitan Regions Louise K. Comfort Graduate School of Public & International Affairs University of Pittsburgh

2 Collapse of Disaster Response Rarely does disaster destroy an entire city Rarely does disaster destroy an entire city Two disasters in New Orleans Two disasters in New Orleans –Hurricane – natural event beyond human control –Flood – consequence of human action/inaction Collapse of disaster response at all four levels Collapse of disaster response at all four levels –City/parish; state, federal jurisdictions Disaster escalated beyond region, affecting 49 out of 50 states, impact on entire nation Disaster escalated beyond region, affecting 49 out of 50 states, impact on entire nation

3 Public Responsibility in Disaster U.S. laws, policies for disaster management developed over last century U.S. laws, policies for disaster management developed over last century Current U.S. policy in disaster Current U.S. policy in disaster –National Response Plan –National Incident Management Plan –Both intended to address security needs after 9/11 Role of government: protect citizens from harm Role of government: protect citizens from harm

4 Initial Conditions in New Orleans Vulnerable Setting for City Vulnerable Setting for City Seven feet below sea level Seven feet below sea level Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain at borders Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain at borders Exposure to hurricanes from Gulf Coast Exposure to hurricanes from Gulf Coast Aging infrastructure Aging infrastructure Delayed maintenance Delayed maintenance High incidence of poverty, lack of public education High incidence of poverty, lack of public education

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6 The Emerging Threat What did managers know and when? What did managers know and when? –8/23:NHC reported tropical depression in Bahamas –8/24:NHC upgrades storm to Hurricane Katrina –8/25:Katrina makes landfall in Florida, Cat. 1 –8/26:Katrina moves into Gulf of Mexico, Cat. 2, NHC projects landfall in Louisiana, Mississippi –8/26: LA Gov. Blanco declares state of emergency –8/27:NHC upgrades Katrina to Cat. 3

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8 Imminent Disaster… 8/27: Gov. Barbour declares disaster for MS 8/27: Gov. Barbour declares disaster for MS 8/27: Gov. Blanco requests federal declaration of disaster for Louisiana 8/27: Gov. Blanco requests federal declaration of disaster for Louisiana 8/27: Mayor Nagin orders voluntary evacuation of New Orleans 8/27: Mayor Nagin orders voluntary evacuation of New Orleans 8/28: Katrina intensifies, Cat. 4, then Cat. 5 8/28: Katrina intensifies, Cat. 4, then Cat. 5 8/28: Nagin orders mandatory evacuation of city 8/28: Nagin orders mandatory evacuation of city 8/28: Pres. Bush declares federal disaster for Florida 8/28: Pres. Bush declares federal disaster for Florida 8/28: Nagin opens Superdome as “refuge of last resort” 8/28: Nagin opens Superdome as “refuge of last resort”

9 Catastrophe! August 29, 2005 August 29, 2005 –6:10 a.m.: Katrina makes landfall, Cat. 4, east of New Orleans; city escapes direct hit –10:00 a.m.: Katrina makes landfall in MS., Cat. 3 –2:00 p.m.: 17 th Street levee breaches, waters of Lake Pontchartrain flood city of New Orleans –Communications fail completely –Pres. Bush declares federal disaster for LA, MS, AL

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11 The Aftermath… Interdependence of engineered systems meant no public services were operable in city Interdependence of engineered systems meant no public services were operable in city City was uninhabitable; evacuation was the only course of action City was uninhabitable; evacuation was the only course of action Response agencies were overwhelmed with magnitude of event Response agencies were overwhelmed with magnitude of event Coordination, communication lacking at all levels Coordination, communication lacking at all levels Situation proved unmanageable, despite planning Situation proved unmanageable, despite planning –July 2004 federal exercise, Hurricane Pam, similar scenario

12 Disaster in New Orleans Damage largely result of the flood, not storm Damage largely result of the flood, not storm Not a “natural disaster” Not a “natural disaster” Failure at all four levels of government to implement National Response Plan, NIMS Failure at all four levels of government to implement National Response Plan, NIMS Revealed serious weaknesses in governmental performance Revealed serious weaknesses in governmental performance Questions competence of existing practice Questions competence of existing practice Contrasts with previous strong performances of governmental response to disasters Contrasts with previous strong performances of governmental response to disasters

13 Actual Preparedness & Response Discrepancy between policy & practice Discrepancy between policy & practice Reorganization of FEMA into Department of Homeland Security Reorganization of FEMA into Department of Homeland Security Shift in focus, attention, allocation of funds to homeland security from natural disasters Shift in focus, attention, allocation of funds to homeland security from natural disasters Shift in personnel at all four levels Shift in personnel at all four levels Inability to create a “common knowledge base” to facilitate coordinated response Inability to create a “common knowledge base” to facilitate coordinated response “We can only create what we already understand.” H. Simon, “We can only create what we already understand.” H. Simon, 1981.

14 Estimated Costs of Disaster Assistance

15 Discrepancy between Policies and Practice Disasters reveal weaknesses in practice Disasters reveal weaknesses in practice Response to Katrina was first major test of DHS leadership and policies since 9/11 Response to Katrina was first major test of DHS leadership and policies since 9/11 Hierarchical structure of DHS contrasted with dynamic conditions of disaster operations Hierarchical structure of DHS contrasted with dynamic conditions of disaster operations Policies advocated control; conditions required rapid communication, collaboration, networks of action Policies advocated control; conditions required rapid communication, collaboration, networks of action Discrepancies within, among jurisdictions; inability to adapt to changing conditions Discrepancies within, among jurisdictions; inability to adapt to changing conditions

16 Lessons from Katrina US response system is inadequate for extreme events US response system is inadequate for extreme events Emergency response is a sociotechnical system Emergency response is a sociotechnical system –Interaction among failed infrastructure & capacity of emergency response organizations Leadership is critical in uncertain conditions Leadership is critical in uncertain conditions Inability to identify & correct error weakened response system throughout event Inability to identify & correct error weakened response system throughout event Critical to map interdependencies, dependencies among infrastructure systems & organizational systems that manage and use them Critical to map interdependencies, dependencies among infrastructure systems & organizational systems that manage and use them

17 Challenges for New Orleans & Nation Redefine accountability for performance Redefine accountability for performance Review national priorities : Review national priorities : –Maintenance of infrastructure for US cities –Security from full range of threats –Integration of science into policy & practice –Public education regarding hazards in areas exposed to risk Goal: build resilient communities that assess & mitigate risks before extreme events occur Goal: build resilient communities that assess & mitigate risks before extreme events occur


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