News / USA

    Disaster Management Advances Since Hurricane Katrina

    A Walmart meteorologist at his station in the disaster operations center checking on Sandy's progress (Walmart)A Walmart meteorologist at his station in the disaster operations center checking on Sandy's progress (Walmart)
    x
    A Walmart meteorologist at his station in the disaster operations center checking on Sandy's progress (Walmart)
    A Walmart meteorologist at his station in the disaster operations center checking on Sandy's progress (Walmart)
    As federal, state and local governments respond to the Hurricane Sandy disaster on the U.S. east coast, they are drawing on lessons learned from the error-stricken effort that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Government agencies and private relief operations in the affected areas are nonetheless facing an enormous challenge.

    The worst natural disaster in U.S. history was Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people, drove more than 1 million others from their homes and left some 3 million more stranded without electrical power in the Gulf Coast area.  Much of New Orleans, Louisiana was flooded when levees broke and parts of the city have yet to fully recover.  

    At Tulane University in New Orleans, Marc Roy helps run one of the nation's only Master's degree programs in disaster management.  The former relief and recovery specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, says the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy could be worse because of the much larger population in the affected area.

    "We are looking at 60 million people potentially affected, so in terms of geographical impact, Sandy is making a huge impact nationally and will be a trial for everybody concerned," said Roy.

    Roy says extended closures of highways, rail transportation and subway systems in New York and other cities would keep businesses from opening and keep residents from getting to work.  If millions of people are left without electrical power for a long time, he says, people could become desperate.

    "Rolling blackouts are problematical enough, but when you have a blackout for an extended period of time following a disaster of any kind, you have not only the economic but psychological results that impact people in their daily lives," he said.

    But Roy says government agencies and especially FEMA have learned from mistakes made in the weeks following Katrina.  He says communication and coordination among government entities on various levels are much better now than they were seven years ago.

    Roy says the government also learned lessons from private relief organizations like the American Red Cross and one private company in particular, the giant retail company Walmart, which got supplies of food and water into some stricken areas after Katrina more quickly than government agencies.

    Walmart closed 290 stores in the 10 states affected by Hurricane Sandy this week, but by late Tuesday, all but 74 of them were up and running, according to company spokeswoman Kayla Whaling.

    "We have a network of emergency distribution centers, which are strategically located and stocked with staple goods and based on the track of the storm; we can move merchandise to the distribution center nearest the impact zone," said Whaling.

    Whaling says the same logistical system in place at Walmart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas helps the company operate its own emergency operations center, supplying food, water and other material to communities in need.

    "We partner with the Red Cross, we do communicate with local organizations so that we can understand what items are needed just to make sure the basic needs are being met by the community," said Whaling.

    Whaling says Walmart also remains in constant contact with local and federal authorities in the disaster zone so as to coordinate with them and provide the most effective relief possible to areas where they have millions of customers.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.