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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid