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Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy: Analysis of Our Improved Abilities to Respond and Recover

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This paper goes over the different articles provided in HSEM 456 class on how poorly or well-prepared leadership was during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, what they failed to learn from previous incidents from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy. This will go over whether or not we have improved our ability to respond and recover from disasters as so and what is to be learned from the leadership during that period. As well as what changes have been done to better prepare for similar disasters in the future. The way the leadership will be evaluated is by their personal courage and self-confidence before, during, and after a disaster has struck.

What Happen During Hurricane Katrina?

29 August 2005 was when Hurricane Katrina had struck the Gulf Coast. The levees and floodwalls that were supposed to protect New Orleans had failed and left the city to be underwater, but they were not the only ones to be suffering from Hurricane Katrina; there was severe damage to throughout the towns along the Gulf Coast. Many people were not given time to evacuate and head to shelters. Any critical element of the National Response Plan had been executed in a timely matter nor correctly if so this would have prevented further life loss and damages to all the areas that had been affected by Katrina. Communication was lacking from the state, local, and federal when trying to respond to what was needed and what the current state was for each area affected by Katrina.

Overview of What Went Wrong

Even though numerous things went wrong during Hurricane Katrina, there were some things that well. Unfortunately, what went well does not out weight all the events that should have gone much smoother than they did during Hurricane Katrina. Communication was a huge key factor when a disaster struck, and many local, state, and federal were not prepared and ability to address the issue at hand, creating a delay in relief supplies, this was especially affected when coordinating with DOD, military, FEMA, and the state.

There was also a lack of training from the DHS and FEMA staff, and not enough people with experience were handling the response teams for Katrina. There was also a lack of situational awareness from the FEMA management of the requirements and resources for the supply chain. This was causing the logistic system to become overwhelmed, and getting any supplies, equipment, or personnel was a challenge in putting them where needed the most. This also made it hard for any charitable organization to assist because of the lack of organization, inadequate logistics capacity, disorganized shelter process.

Action Taken Before Katrina

Hurricane Pam was a full-scale exercise to be better prepare for Hurricane Katrina; this took place in July 2004. FEMA funded Hurricane Pam. This was supposed to simulate a hurricane of a category three with the qualities of a category four that hit the New Orleans area. This was a five-day exercise with 50 parishes, state, federal, and volunteer organizations took part in this scenario, which was held in Louisiana State Emergency Operation Center in Baton Rouge.

The reason for conducting this exercise was for officials to have a better understanding of what was to be expected when Hurricane Katrina hit as well as to develop a joint response plan for such events. This exercise was helpfully in many ways; it highlighted all the good and bad during the exercise. Not all lessons from the exercise were implemented into improving the emergency plan for their area.

Lesson Learned

Not all officials had done what they were initially planned to do. For example, the need to shelter anyone with special needs such as patients in hospitals or residents in nursing homes needed to move further north to be away from the Gulf Coast in order to be safe. These steps were not taken, and the selection for shelters was not thought through clearly, such as having the Superdome as a shelter; it received a lot damaged due to the hurricane, and all victims were ordered to relocate to another shelter. This leading to the issue of command and control during Katrina. A lot of the lessons learned from Hurricane Pam were not implemented, and some of the events during Katrina were not anticipated. Leaving many people to worry about why actions were not taken and who failed on their part to make sure all these lessons would be implemented into the new plan.

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Leadership During Katrina

Leadership will be evaluated on personal courage and self-confidence. As well as what actions they took during, before, and after Hurricane Katrina. The following personnel will be discussed, Michael D Brown and Kathleen Blanco.

Personal courage is described as the ability to put your fear aside and do what is necessary. This comes in two forms physical and moral. A leader can demonstrate both. The moral part is being able to stand up for what you believe is right, no matter what the consequence will be. It is taking responsibility for their decision and actions. Physical courage is not worrying about what is going to happen to yourself but doing your duty. (Army Leadership Be, Know, Do, 1999)

Self-confidence is knowing that what you have done was the correct thing to do during the situation, even when you do not have all the information. (Army Leadership Be, Know, Do, 1999)

Michael D. Brown was the undersecretary of DHS, and the director of FEMA had mentioned he was unaware that people had been stranded in the New Orleans Convention Center and what the condition people were in. He failed to deliver aid to victims who were waiting for food, medicine, and other items in a reasonable timeframe. He acknowledged that they had failed to plan accordingly to Hurricane Katrina and when FEMA had shown up somewhere emptied handed, causing the residents of the area to become even more frustrated with the situation at hand. He is constantly saying he is not to blame for the events that happened in Katrina. He was heavily criticized for not having certain supplies available in the area impacted and told congress that they needed to be realistic that he did not find it to be reasonable and that they made trailers available in other areas. (A Failure of Initiative, 2006)

This demonstrates that Michael D Brown should not have been in the leadership. He did not take responsibility for his actions and was looking for excuses on why things did not go well. A leader needs to take responsibility for what they have done good or bad. He did admit that FEMA was not fully prepared for Hurricane Katrina had to offer, but that was the only part he admitted to failing to nothing else.

Lt Gen Russel Honore was the commander of the joint task force that lead the recovery during Hurricane Katrina. His job was to evacuate all residents in the Superdome football stadium due to the building being compromised. He had said that the shelter was overcrowded and that there were not enough supplies for the number of people that were there. He demonstrated self courage and self-confidence when telling police that they would not be taking the truck because there was only a handful, and the water was at chest level now. He figured it would be best if they would walk it would only be for a block. Police try questioning him and saying that they were unsure if they had the authority to evacuate the residents. Lt Gen Russel Honore told them that they needed to move and that he had the authority to do he did not want to waste any time. (Lartey, 2019)

How Changes Were Made During Hurricane Sandy

FEMA had taken the lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina and made sure to implement them when planning for Hurricane Sandy. FEMA made sure to have all personnel that was properly trained and with enough experience to be posted on the scene before the storm hit, not during it. This prevented chaos and made it easier to set up shelters for people and get any other resources needed for them instead of having the people wait for hours or even days. What made this experience different from other times was the president being able to declare a disaster before having all the details this sped up the process of receiving federal aid. Communication was a lot better, as well. There was not any confusion about what needed to be done and where they needed help the most.


In conclusion, we have discussed some of the areas that had negatively impacted people’s lives during Hurricane Katrina and what some of the lessons were learned from those incidents. Even though officials had done a large-scale exercise to prepare themselves for Hurricane Katrina better, many failed to implement some of the critical takeaways from the exercise, and results showed when Hurricane Katrina hit. Certain leadership had been heavily criticized for lack of actions taken, such as Michael D Brown and other leaders were praised, such as Lt Gen Russel Honore, for his quick thinking and confidence in what he was doing.

Resources :

  1. A Failure of Initiative. (2006). Retrieved 9 December 2019, from
  2. Army Leadership Be, Know, Do. (1999, August). Retrieved 9 December 2019, from 22-100 Aug99.pdf.
  3. Lartey, J. (2019). He is a Gulf war vet who stepped up during Katrina. Now he is an environmental crusader. Retrieved 10 December 2019, from
  4. Naylor, B. (2012). NPR Choice page. Retrieved 10 December 2019, from

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Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy: Analysis of Our Improved Abilities to Respond and Recover. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
“Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy: Analysis of Our Improved Abilities to Respond and Recover.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy: Analysis of Our Improved Abilities to Respond and Recover. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy: Analysis of Our Improved Abilities to Respond and Recover [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from:
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