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Overcoming the Outcomes of Hurricane Katrina and Joplin Tornado

Despite the fact, that nowadays humanity has created various technologies to manage the unpredictable impact of nature and weather, a lot of nations worldwide are still suffering from the devastating effects of natural disasters. Eliminating the negative consequences of those disasters requires an intensive interaction of government and private sector organizations. The successful response to the catastrophes depends on different factors, such as the ability of meteorologists to predict the following hurricane or tornado in a timely manner, the governmental strategy considering the rebuilding of damaged property and effective actions of private sector organizations and volunteers. The following paper aims at the comparative analysis of preparedness and response phases of hurricane Katrina and the Joplin, Missouri tornado. The key points of the analysis are discussing the role of governmental and non-governmental organizations, while the recovery period and exploring the advantages and disadvantages of overcoming the consequences of both disasters.

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Preparedness Stage

Hurricane Katrina broke out at the end of August 2005 and turned out to be one of the most destructive and deadliest hurricanes in the history of the US. The storm affected most of the Gulf Coast region, especially New Orleans suffered the greatest casualties. The hurricane caused levee failure throughout the region, which resulted in extraordinary flooding. All of those factors led to deaths of approximately 1,000 Louisiana residents and forced more than a million people to leave their households (The Data Center, n.d.). On May 16, 2005, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS) released 2005 Atlantic Hurricane outlook. According to this report, there was a 70% chance of above-average hurricane season, with the risk that three to five hurricanes would become major ones (“The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, 2006, p.21). Katrina made landfall on August 28, 2005. Before that, on August 26, the governor of Louisiana Katherine Babineaux Blanco declared a state of emergency and then President George Bush to do the same on the federal level. Consequently, on August 27, the state of emergency was declared in particular regions of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Such actions authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mobilize resources to help the residents of these states. On August 27, mayor of New Orlean gave out the voluntary evacuation and the next day the evacuation became mandatory, but a lot of people have no proper opportunity to leave the city. The stadium Superdome was reorganized as a shelter for those who stayed in the city (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.).

Along with the hurricane Katrina, the tornado which struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, was one of the deadliest natural catastrophes in the history of the US. On Sunday, May 22 the supercell thunderstorm formed above the central United States and this storm started to move from southeast Kansas to southwest Missouri. The storm led to several tornados, flash flooding and wind damage across southwest Missouri. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Springfield issued a tornado warning for Joplin at 6:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which provided residents with almost half an hour to prepare for the disaster. The average speed of the tornado was 200 miles per hour and it did 6-mile path through central Joplin. Consequently, 161 people died and, approximately, 1,371 were injured. Thousands of buildings, both small family houses, and huge public buildings were destroyed (“The Response to the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, Tornado”, 2011).

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Response Stage

Governmental response to the hurricane Katrina remains a controversial issue and there are still a lot of critiques of the actions taken by the federal and local governments to overcome the negative consequences of the catastrophe. Since the preparedness to the devastating hurricane was not sufficient and there were a lot of problems concerning communication between different departments, governmental response to Katrina was quite slow and ineffective. In order to provide assistance to the damaged areas, FEMA mobilized Homeland security workers, but the problem was that FEMA declared that no firefighters and ambulance crews can be mobilized until receiving such order from the local and state authorities (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.). Evidently, this bureaucratic procedure destroyed the capability of FEMA to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges imposed by the disaster. One of the greatest problems for the government during the elimination of Katrina’s aftermath was the adjustment of the system of communication. The point is that Katrina destroyed the unprecedented portion of crucial communications infrastructure all over the Gulf Coast Region. A lot of emergency centers and services crushed, therefore, the creation of an effective system of assistance was quite challenging (Chapter Five: Lessons Learned, n.d.). Also, the problem with communications causes governmental failure to provide sufficient and adequate information about the true devastation in the area. Moreover, the government faced serious problems concerning the evacuation, search and rescue of people. For example, in New Orlean, not all the residents managed to evacuate from the city on time, but on August 30, Superdome lost its capacity to shelter more people (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, n.d.). Furthermore, no integrated search and rescue incident command was created, therefore, various agencies failed to coordinate their actions successfully (Chapter Five: Lessons Learned, n.d.). Also, a great problem while overcoming the impact of hurricane Katrina was cooperation between governmental structures and non-governmental organizations. When the governmental organizations stuck in bureaucratic procedures, local private sector organizations can usually provide the most effective and fast aid in the aftermath of natural catastrophes. However, in the response to the hurricane Katrina, the Nation did not create effective mechanisms to incorporate the non-governmental, faith-based and voluntary organizations in the process of disaster relief. According to the White House report, there was a great number of private sector organizations and volunteers, who were willing to provide assistance after the hurricane Katrina. Both national and foreign organizations were engaged in disaster relief. For example, trained volunteers from National Volunteer Organisation Active in Disasters (NVOAD), American Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) along with untrained volunteers from various non-profit organizations worked in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Also, the faith-based organizations provided crucial aid, while recovery after the hurricane Katrina. For instance, the Southern Baptist Convention of the North American Mission Board mobilized 9,000 volunteers from all over the country to serve, while disaster relief. They organized mobile kitchens and recovery sites (Chapter Five: Lessons Learned). Therefore, the contribution of private sector organizations to the disaster relief was truly extraordinary, but, unfortunately, the Nation failed to organize effective cooperation between non-governmental and governmental agencies.

The response to the Joplin, Missouri tornado 2011 was much better organized than the response to Katrina. In the report “The Response to the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, Tornado Lessons Learned Study”, some major advantages were demonstrated, while the disaster relief is indicated. Among them:

· Regional capabilities enabled emergency responders to meet the needs of survivors immediately after the Joplin tornado.

· The City of Joplin used social media and other innovative mechanisms to communicate emergency information to the public and conduct outreach to support long term recovery.

· Participation in the National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 11) helped to prepare Federal, State, regional, local, and private sector personnel responds effectively to the Joplin tornado (p. 3).

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Therefore, it is evident that, in comparison with the response to the hurricane Katrina, actions of the government were much faster and the methods used while the disaster relief was much more up to date. For example, the destruction of local communications infrastructure did not hinder the responders to provide sufficient information aid for the residents of the city because they used modern and innovative means of communication. Furthermore, the collaboration between governmental agencies and private sector organizations was organized better than it was in the aftermath of Katrina. For example, AmeriCorps had a significant impact on disaster relief. According to the Fact Sheet, prepared by the AmeriCorps, more than 350 members of the organization provided vital services to the residents of Joplin and these members coordinated more than 75, 000 volunteers, who contributed to the city’s recovery (Fact Sheet AmeriCorps Response to the Joplin Tornado, 2012) Therefore, the response to the Joplin tornado is a great example of well organized disaster relief and integrate cooperation between government and private sector organizations.

To conclude, there are two main reasons why the response to the Joplin tornado was much more successful than the response to Hurricane Katrina. First of all, disaster relief after Katrina was a serious failure of the federal and local government and it was extremely critiqued by the public. Therefore, the governmental organizations tried to analyze in details all the mistakes made during the preparedness and response phases and created new strategies and methods in order to avoid such shortcomings in the future. The second reason why the response to the Joplin tornado was more effective is the scope of the tragedy and the area affected. After the hurricane Katrina, the whole region of the Gulf Coast was extremely damaged and such great scale of devastation required an extraordinary mobilization of resources and highly integrated cooperation of all emergency agencies and other institution. However, it was hardly possible to reach such a high level of integrity because the communications and infrastructure were enormously destroyed throughout the whole region. Despite the fact that Joplin tornado also provided unprecedented damage, the scope of the catastrophe was not that large, as in the case of Katrina. That is why the recovery efforts in case of Joplin were more likely to succeed.

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