On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana. With winds reaching more than 125 miles per hour, Hurricane Katrina at one point, reached a category 5 level hurricane. According to Rubin, Hurricane Katrina had a direct loss of $81 billion and was one of the deadliest hurricanes causing approximately 1,870 deaths. Once the hurricane had passed, approximately 80% of New Orleans was flooded, New Orleans was left with no power, many people lost their homes, and more than a million gulf coast residents were displaced. Although this event caused severe damage it brought forward lessons learned. A few lessons include:
- The Department of Homeland Security should review current laws pertaining to communications to ensure that there is communication with civilians and first responders;
- The Department of Homeland Security needs to establish policies and procedures for better search and rescue tactics,
- Ddifferent departments need to assess how the federal government would help state and local government during times of emergencies, and how the government should prepare to provide medical supplies and medicine to people who need treatment.
To say the least, the local government was not prepared for a hurricane of this magnitude and that reflected in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
There were many challenges that states encountered and were left to resolve. One of those challenges included the communication system citizens had with first responders. More than 50,000 utility poles were destroyed in Mississippi alone, indicating that even if telephone call centers were working the connections of the utility users were broken. The destruction of the communication infrastructure resulted in first responders and citizens without reliable network where they could not coordinate help. Although local, state, and federal organizations had some measures, plans, and tools that they had in place, none of those measures and tools were adequate or had been implemented or practiced to withstand a devastation of this magnitude. For example, according to the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Services has the largest civilian cache of radios, despite their resources, there were many radios that were available to the public, but not utilized. This highlighted the ineffectiveness of the government to deliver efficient communication to citizens in times of need. To resolve this problem there must be a strategy that includes integrating existing equipment to a national emergency plan. To specify, the National Department of Homeland Security needs to review current laws, policies, and regulations that pertain to communication and ensure that they are still applicable to today’s society, as well as, work alongside with the Homeland Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Center to establish a National Emergency Communications Strategy that supports communication.
Another noteworthy lesson that was learned is that there needs to be coordnation when rescuing citizens. After Hurricane Katrina hit there were many people who were stranded on the rooftop of their homes. Some of the agencies that helped coordinate search and rescue plans were: the Coast Guard, FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces, 33 and the U.S. Department of Defense forces. All these agencies worked for one common goal and that was to help as many people as they could and transport them to a safe area. Despite, all these agencies working for a common goal “the overall search and rescue effort demonstrated the need for greater coordination between US&R, the Coast Guard, and military responders who because of their different missions, train and operate in different ways”.