Ten Years Later: The Emergency Management Legacy of Hurricane Katrina

August 25th, 2015 by Michael Greenberger

The silver lining within the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina was the redoubling of federal, state, and local focus on responding to crises that by their devastating nature overwhelm governmental resources.

From the 9/11 attacks in 2001 to the Katrina episode in 2005, most emergency management attention was focused on preventing and responding to terror attacks. Katrina demonstrated that severe weather events (superstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, flooding) and infectious disease outbreaks (e.g. Ebola) are just as threatening, and often more threatening, to the American populace.

In the wake of Katrina, it became apparent that the governmental apparatus initially focused on prevention and response to terror attacks could be applied to prevention and response to natural disasters and deadly infectious disease outbreaks. For example, large scale evacuations are needed to get people out of harm’s way during a threatened weapon of mass destruction terror attack the same as they are to move large populations from the deadly onset of a weather event such as Superstorm Sandy.

Thus, especially after Katrina, the emergency management community has focussed on an “all hazards” approach to planning, training, and exercising to respond effectively to crises at all levels of government and at critical public institutions, such as hospitals and educational institutions.

The University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) has over 50 professionals working on over 90 “all hazard” planning, training, and exercise crisis management projects world-wide. We are at the cutting edge of developing strategies to improve crisis responses.

From our vantage point, we have seen that the country’s emergency management response mechanisms have been vastly improved in the ten years since Katrina. But, they are far from perfect. More financial and personnel resources are required to effectively remove U.S. citizens from the peril of super storms, deadly infectious disease outbreaks, and potential terror attacks. Katrina’s Ten Year Anniversary should remind us of the Nation’s critical emergency management needs.

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