Hurricane Katrina and the impact that it had on the City of New Orleans, they will often associate it with the flooding along with total amounts of devastation. While this is true to certain extent, another situation was happening behind the senses both: before and after the disaster. This had an influence on the ability of all levels of government to respond and it caused the total amounts of destruction to increase exponentially. To fully understand what was taking place requires examining the ideas presented in The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley. This will be accomplished by examining the mistakes / successes that occurred, the response of the City of New Orleans and comparing what happened with the reaction from different agencies (i.e. The city / FEMA / the Coast Guard). Once this occurs, it will provide the greatest insights as to the errors and triumphs of all levels of government that were involved in the aftermath of the disaster.
The Failures and Successes of the Governments Response to Hurricane Katrina from a Historical Point-of-View
Despite what was seen throughout the news media at the time, there were a number of critical successes and failures in the government's response to these events. As far as successes are concerned, one of the most notable took place with SPCA being able to successfully evacuate most animals from New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm. This is because they did not have to coordinate as much with federal and local officials. (Brinkley, 2006, pp. 499 -- 520)
At the same time, Governor Blanco of Louisiana was concerned about the total amounts of devastation of the storm. Where, she declared the city a natural disaster area prior to Katrina reaching the coast. This led to her encouraging African-American ministers, to dedicating their Sunday sermons by: informing their congregations that they needed to evacuate the region as quickly as possible. The reason why, is various projections were coming in, that the title surge would easily overwhelm the city and that New Orleans had been through a series of floods throughout the decades (which caused similar kinds of situations). This is important, because in the book, Brinkley is illustrating how despite the coverage in the media there were some successes from: various organizations and select levels of government. (Brinkley, 2006, pp. 111 -- 202)
However, the larger picture highlights the different ways that the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina were a critical failure that occurred on: the federal and local levels. As, he is blaming the escalation of these events on: President Bush, FEMA Director Michael Brown and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. In the case of President Bush, he was slow to respond in declaring the region a federal disaster area. This reduced the ability of various resources to effectively deal with these kinds of situations. At the same time, there were issues of who had jurisdiction over the emergency response between: Governor Blanco and the President. This bickering was made worse by the fact that the President was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. After going back and forth with the Governor, Bush yielded to Blanco and allowed the state to take the lead in the aftermath of the disaster. The problem was that critical amounts of time and resources were ignored which made the situation even worse. (Brinkley, 2006, pp. 1 -37, 111 -- 202)
As far as Michael Brown of FEMA is concerned, he took a similar attitude of complacency by: not providing resources quickly enough to deal with the disaster. This is after the President had instructed him to give the state as much assistance as possible. Yet, Brown released a memo encouraging staff members not begin taking immediate action. Instead, he told them to be prepared to take emergency shelter and other precautions vs. taking immediate action to deal with the situation. (Brinkley, 2006, pp. 227 -- 275)
On the local level, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was considered to be indecisive and inept by: not fully understanding the scope of the disaster as well as encouraging all residents to evacuate the city. In this situation, he emboldened residents to go to emergency evacuation areas that were under staffed and did not have enough resources to deal with the waves of residents. This created a situation of lawlessness at the Convention Center and the Superdome in the aftermath of the storm. These different elements are important, because they are showing how the situation was made worse by: the lack of decision making, a sense of urgency and complacency that led to a break down on the federal as well as state level. This led to a slow response from these governments, which made the effects of the situation more extreme. (Brinkley, 2006, pp. 331 -- 375)
The Response of the City of New Orleans
The response from the City of New Orleans was considered to be poor at best. This is because the Mayor was not exercising effective leadership to deal with the underlying issues. Evidence of this can be seen in the aftermath of the disaster, as he was waiting for resources to arrive and was blaming everyone from: the federal government to the state for not providing adequate assistance. In the book, Brinkley details this response in the aftereffects of the disaster with him saying, "Nagin spent the day after the storm awaiting the federal cavalry, pointing fingers at everyone but himself and swearing a lot. Everything was Blanco's fault." (Brinkley, 2006, pg. 341) This is important, because the lack of response from the city meant that no one was taking the lead in dealing with the issues in the aftermath of the disaster. As, Nagin expected everyone to: come in and provide assistance to him, so that he can step back and claim credit for good leadership. When in reality, he should have been utilizing the city's resources to effectively deal with these kinds of challenges.
This lack of communication and leadership had ripple effects on the how the police and was dealing with the disaster. Where, officers were not given specific instructions on to how to handle the overwhelming amounts of water they encountered and what actions they need to take when they ran into stranded residents. A good example of this can be seen with observations from Captain Clark of the New Orleans police. As, they had no specific directives on: how to deal with the situation or what steps need to be taken to handle residents who were trapped in buildings that were flooded with water. With Brinkley writing, "A woman was standing on the balcony of a two story building on Lebeau Street screaming and holding a baby above her head. Captain Clark moved his boat towards her and said, 'What are you nuts?' Put the baby back inside.' The woman kept crying, 'I need help, I need help.' After having a heated conversation with her Clark said 'Stay put we will be back.' The woman replied 'If you don't come back we are going to die.' Clark responded by saying, 'I promise I will be back. I'm going to check on these stranded cops. You are on the second story, so you're good for a while now." (Brinkley, 2006, pg. 347) This is significant, because it shows how the lack of leadership and finger pointing on the local level made the sheriff and police departments unable to effectively respond to the disaster. The reason why, is because they were not prepared for the overall scope of flooding and they did not have plan in place to deal with these kinds of situations. This meant that a number of precincts were flooded and a large amount of officers were stranded. As, they could have been used to: help provide assistance in the aftermath of hurricane. However, because of Nagin waiting for assistance and blaming others meant that the response by the city was limited at best.
As a result, the inability of the police and emergency personnel to effectively coordinate meant that local organizations could not provide any kind of sufficient relief. This had ripple effects on the local residents, as they were stranded at: flooded buildings, public facilities or on the bridges for days (with no supplies made available to them). This made the situation even worse, which caused the total amounts of death and collateral damage to increase exponentially.
The reason why, is because the city government did not effectively work with nonprofits and local groups to distribute relief supplies to residents. When there is a lack of coordination from first responders and law enforcement, this becomes considerably more challenging. As, these organizations have no way of being able to reach residents who are in desperate need of assistance. This is based on the fact that law enforcement and emergency services can establish areas where they local groups can address the most pressing issues facing residents. However, when many officers and first responders are stranded, this will…