A disaster is an abrupt detrimental or unfortunate intense happening which causes enormous damage to plants, animals, and human beings (Himayatullah Khan, Laura Giurca Vasilescu). Disasters happen unexpectedly and without discrimination. They either occur as a result of natural happenings or as a man orchestrated the event. Despite their nature, disasters leave behind a catastrophic loss of lives and property. One of the frequent occurrences in the history of the United States is the hurricanes. The country has faced various hurricanes in the past and anticipates even much more in the future.
The Hurricane Katrina was one of the most expensive natural disasters to have hit the United States in the past 30 years. It struck on August 29, 2005, sweeping along the Gulf Coast, the city of New Orleans and the damage reached as far as Mississippi (Kevin England, Victoria Harris, and Matthew O’Connor, 2005). The exact number of people who died as a result of the disaster is not known but it is approximated to be above 1 500 people. Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced and the whole tragedy cost the united states over an estimated at $108 billion (2005 USD) as a result of damages which happened on the private and public property. This was almost four times the damage that was done by the Hurricane Andrew which occurred in 1992. Governments face challenges in managing such disasters. The purposes of disaster management are to avoid, or reduce the possible loss, give help to the victims of the hazards, and help the victims and country recover from the effects of the hazards. The purpose of disaster management summarises what is commonly known as the disaster management cycle (Warfield). The Disaster Management Cycle provides a framework for analysing mitigation, preparedness and post-disaster interventions. This paper will use the disaster events of the hurricane Katrina which struck the United States in 2005 to demonstrate how the Disaster Management Cycle as a tool can be used to analyse disasters.
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Disaster response starts from the local, regional and then the national level. The federal government comes in when the situation is beyond the local authorities. A disaster management cycle involves the realignment of the public plans and policies which will either minimise the causes of the natural or man-made disasters or prevent their effects on the civilians, their property, and infrastructure. The disaster management cycle begins with the mitigation and preparedness phases (Warfield). These phases happen to improve the infrastructure as a region anticipates a disaster. When the disaster happens, the disaster management personnel, mainly made up of government and humanitarian organisations, get involved too in the final stages of response and recovery of the disaster management cycle. These phases are however not linear, in the sense that they do not occur in sequence. Neither do they happen in isolation because the length of each phase of the cycle depends on the intensity of the disaster (Haigh).
Mitigation is a pre-disaster phase which helps to reduce or eliminate the possibility of occurrence of a disaster. However, if the disaster occurs, mitigation efforts are always intended to reduce their effects. Mitigation measures vary depending on the kind of disaster anticipated. Some of the measures taken to mitigate a disaster include public information of the pending disaster, provision of preventive health care, zoning of areas likely to be affected by the disaster, building bridged and related preventive structures, and evacuation of people from the disaster hotspots (Haigh, p. 6). For mitigation to be effective, disaster management authorities ought to avail information to the public on the possible hazards, prepare countermeasures, and making an emergency risk fund and team.
The next phase involves preparing for the disaster. The purpose of preparing for the disaster is to ensure that the organisations, communities and governments are effectively able to respond to emergencies by coming up with strong technical and management programmes (Haigh, p. 6). Preparedness for a disaster can take various forms from logistical to management forms. The authorities prepare equipment, food, equipment, medical equipment whose aim is to save the lives of the victims likely to be affected by the anticipated disaster. The is a need to prepare communication systems, rescue centres, conduct training on disaster response, provide the contacts of the rescue teams, prepare evacuation plans and have adequate warning systems (Haigh, p. 6). For effective preparedness, the national and regional strategies need to be synchronised. This makes it easy for the disaster authorities at the national and regional level manager the disaster with ease since the orders originate from a single source. In addition, Preparedness also ought to ensure that information on the hazards is available to the public on the strategy the government intends to use to respond to the disaster (Warfield).
Thirdly, the response is the next phase of the disaster management cycle. The response gives the much-needed assistance in order to maintain the life, improve the health conditions, and boost three morale of the population affected by the disaster (Warfield). The response involves the provision of the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to the affected population. Most often government and nongovernmental organisations prepare settlement camps and rescue centres from which the affected population can seek assistance. The response can also take the form of repairing the destroyed infrastructure as a result of the disaster (Haigh, p. 7). Response plays a big role in meeting the immediate basic needs of the affected population as the government continues to seek and prepare more permanent solutions.
The response to the hurricane Katrina brought together a network of actors which were drawn from various levels of government and different sectors. The response activities for the disaster involved evacuation of people from the areas which were anticipated to feel the full impact of the Katrina (Moynihan, p. 2). For example, Ray Nagin, the then Mayor of New Orleans ordered a compulsory evacuation of the people from the city. At the same time, the governments opened the Superdome so that it could act as a refuge in case things moved to worse. In addition, the response involved delivering of basic materials such as food, water, and medicine to the victims (Moynihan, p. 3). The bodies of the victims who had died in the disaster were also recovered and there was also the provision of mortuary services where the bodies could be recovered from. Besides, there was a lot of support from the Bush administration. The president, George W. Bush four days after the Katrina struck signed an aid package of $ 10.4 billion and also provided over 7 000 troops to help in the humanitarian crisis in New Orleans. However, as the Katrina surged, analysts argued that the response of the government was very inefficient and inadequate due to the limited information on the level of destruction caused by the disaster. The Red Cross helped to open over 1 400 shelters for evacuation which ‘housed’ over 450 000 million evacuates. Besides, it served hot meals and snacks to over 68 million evacuates, and emergency assistance to around 6 million people through the provision of clothing, food, diapers for children and other essential goods and services.
Finally, recovery is the last phase of the disaster management cycle. This phase only occurs when the disaster has been brought under control. Recovery helps the affected population come to a level where the affected systems are brought back to normalcy or even a much better state. Such measures include but are not limited to public information, reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure, provision of housing, either temporal or permanent, counselling services and programmes, and restoration of the health care services (Haigh, p. 7). In this stage, the government takes advantage of this window to strengthen its systems to be in a position to withstand a similar disaster if it is to occur in the future. In addition, rescue teams and authorities do not need to wait for the response to be complete to begin recovery. Relief and recovery can almost run simultaneously in some instances as long as the endpoint goal is the same. Recovery, therefore, has to incorporate the construction of disaster resistant systems and infrastructure, planning the appropriate use of land, and rehabilitation of industrial planning (Haigh, p. 7).
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The recovery of the United States from the effects of the Katrina received a lot of support from different governmental and non-governmental institutions. There were donations of over US$ 3.5 billion to help the victims (Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing, p. 1). Interestingly, over 85% of these donations came from five charity organisations. The charity organizations included Habitat for humanity ($ 122 million), the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund ($ 129 million), USA Catholic Charities ($ 146 million), Salvation Army ( $ 365 million), and the Red Cross ($ 2 100 million) (Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing, p. 3). In addition to these efforts, the Bush administration gave $16.7 billion grant to the affected states which were directed towards rebuilding the damaged housing and other physical and social infrastructure (Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing). Besides the national government through the national Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) participated in the restoration of over 200 miles of the destroyed and new floodwalls and levees to protect the states from future disasters (Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing, p. 4).
Other recovery efforts involved the federal emergency management authority financed close to us $5.5 billion channelled towards to repairing and replacing damaged public infrastructure. Public utilities, bridges, public utilities, roads, water systems, schools, and water systems benefited from the fund from FEMA. Over $ 500 was also set aside to help farmers recover and regain their livestock, fisheries and tree planters (Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing, p. 7).
- Kevin England, Victoria Harris, and Matthew O’Connor. (2005, November). Exposing Hurricane Katrina: The Scope of an Unnatural Disaster.
- Haigh, R. (n.d.). Disaster Management Lifecycle.
- Himayatullah KHAN, Laura Giurca VASILESCU. (n.d.). DISASTER MANAGEMENT CYCLE – A THEORETICAL APPROACH.
- Hurricane Katrina: What Government Is Doing. (n.d.).
- Moynihan, D. P. (n.d.). The Response to Hurricane Katrina.
- Warfield, C. (n.d.). The Disaster Management Cycle.