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)
Greg Flakus
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 Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs