Policymakers and weather forecasters in the US watched as Hurricane Katrina grew in strength from category four to category five storm on 29th August 2005. Category 4 hurricane is characterized by 145 miles per hour (mph). On the other hand, a category five storm has wind speeds of up to 160mph. Planners had already issued warnings about the vulnerability of New Orleans to hurricanes of category. According to the planners, even a hurricane as weak as a category three storm would result in severe flooding and loss of life due to New Orleans’ bowl-shaped geography and leave systems. The emergency team from the local, state and federal governments had conducted a massive training exercise in preparation for emergencies such as hurricanes using a mock Hurricane Pam struck. In 2004, a simulation (Hurricane Pam) was done to help plan and be ready for an instance, there was a catastrophe to happen, and they had to be ready in Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans.
This model aimed to determine if New Orleans could handle a situation and respond to a disaster (storms and hurricanes) that could hit the city. Hurricane Pam resulted in a levee-topping storm surge and up to 510 mm (20 inches) of rain in different parts of Southeastern Louisiana. The result of the exercise portrayed how unprepared the government officials and emergency teams were to deal with such eventualities. Additionally, it demonstrated that only a third of the city population would evacuate due to a lack of transport in such natural disasters. Furthermore, the disaster would damage 600,000 buildings, displace more than 1 million people, and kill approximately 60,000 people.
The exercise results are to distribute to government policymakers at all levels. However, a year later, government officials and the public learned that the level results had been breached following an actual hurricane, Hurricane Katrina, which left 88 percent of the city of New Orleans submerged. The emergency team could do little to rescue the affected people after settling the storm. It was a lesson to the federal government and the public that they should have paid attention to the exercise results. The government could have taken early measures to improve the city’s infrastructure to help deal with such catastrophes.
After the Hurricane Pam simulation was successful, the crisis and response team had figured out how to handle this kind of situation because how the response team (emergency and disaster) handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was commendable. Some challenges affected the aspect of the federal response and active potentiality. Overall, these challenges affected the effectiveness and efficiency of rescue efforts. After the hurricane, the stakeholders learned that the then homeland security system had no provisions for the necessary framework for dealing with the catastrophic threats of the 21st Century. Although the US has established a response system that can meet the demands of natural calamities such as wildfires, hurricanes, and unnatural disasters, there are structural flaws in handling calamities in the system. The federal government must collaborate with homeland security to oversee the existing disaster preparedness plans and establish an operational structure.
Additionally, the national preparedness drives must be accountable and transparent. Attaining this may require finalizing and implementing the preparedness goals of the nation. There is a need to train, organize, and equip the Executive Branch agencies to be swift in their response roles. As demonstrated by Hurricane Pam and later the actual eventuality of Hurricane Katrina, an unprecedented portion of the vital communication network was destroyed. All emergency call centers were debilitated by the storm, interfering with the 911 emergency services. Approximately 3 million people have been left without telephone services. The local, state and federal agencies had communication assets and plans, but this was insufficient to respond to the disaster efficiently. The available assets could not be utilized due to a lack of regional, state, and national communication integration programs.
The government has not finalized a plan to improve interoperability and operability to cater to emergency response. When facing any crisis, communication has to be top-notch because it is the blueprint for managing the situation. The responsible persons for this particular department have to ensure that the efficiency is 100%. For example, the department (Homeland security) in charge of communication failed, and the plans and strategies they had did not work. There was inadequate communication from the federal state down to the local government; hence the operations on the ground were delayed for quite some time, but it was a lesson well learned. Logistics and evacuation posed another major challenge, as Hurricane Pam demonstrated it and later by Hurricane Katrina in the actual eventuality. The scope of devastation and its effects on regional infrastructure calls for a massive need for federal resources. The operational and planning mechanism for supplying humanitarian aid and delivering critical resources was inadequate due to insufficient, inflexible, and bureaucratic supply processes. The regional and national supply processes could not leverage the current supply chain management approaches and the private sector.
It was challenging for the federal resource managers to find the required resources, available resources, and the location of the resources. Although the national resource organizers understood what was required throughout the response, they failed to determine the availability of the resources. Additionally, these resource organizers could not determine the available alternative resources to help with evacuation and logistics. Suppose the resources organizers had a list of available resources to respond to such eventualities and natural disasters. It could not have helped since there was no mechanism to integrate and deploy the available and alternative resources. Additionally, many federal managers were left in a blackout regarding the status of available resources due to a lack of an effective asset tracking system. The local, state and the federal government should note that real-time asset tracking is necessary for successful business and operation efficiency in the 21st Century.
The governments should advocate for a fully transparent logistics system by pre-contracting for commodities and resources useful for calamity and disaster response. There should be provisions for additional resources from the national government if these arrangements fail. A collaboration with the EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact) to help coordinate the state and local authorities to enable efficiency, flexibility, and transparency; thus, the logistics system must consider having adequate facilities at the local level to cater to emergencies. Additionally, the national government must undertake large-scale evacuation and logistical operations to replace or supplement local and state government systems. The Federal government can attain this by leveraging resources within the private and public sectors.