Emergency and Disaster Management: Hurricanes Katrina and Ike
In the recent decades, the United States of America has increasingly experienced various disasters not only from natural sources but also from industry and technology. The country has even faced deliberate disasters from terrorist sources. Unfortunately, there is no attenuation or lessening that is in sight at the moment. The predictions regarding the weather disturbances are increasing. There has been a continuation in the low-level industrial accidents with an intensification threat. The threat of cyber attacks on the country's significant infrastructure has turned out to be even more convincing. Last but not the least, no relaxation has been noticed as far as the foreign terrorists are concerned. Thus, the country and its citizens wait for another attack in an anxious manner (Perrow, 2007).
In this research, however, the main concern is to discuss the two hurricanes i.e. Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Katrina (natural source of disaster) that had a tremendous affect on the country as these catastrophic events that caused widespread damage and loss of American life. According to the Natural Hazard Statistics of 2009, the average yearly death toll in America from hurricanes was 117 during the 10-year period from 1999 till 2008. Hurricane Katrina exemplifies the factual fatal potential of these storms as it ended the life of more than 1800 people. Moreover, the hurricanes also stagger the economy of a country. The United States endured a loss of $165.4 billion in damage due to the 8 of the 10 costliest hurricanes that struck the country from 2005 through 2009 (Harbert, 2010).
The last decade crystal-clearly demonstrates the severe life and economic impact from hurricanes. It also gives rise to the issue that how sufficient substantive action to mitigate losses from future hurricanes could be taken. Although the frequency or severity of hurricanes cannot be predicted by human, it is possible to do such things from both an individual and public policy standpoint for reducing the degree of damage. These actions are comprised of "making choices about where people should live, adopting stronger building codes, enforcing building codes, and removing regulations and subsidies that keep coastal property and flood insurance rates artificially low compared to the degree of risk" (Harbert, 2010).
Regrettably, the public has given not much attention to or discussed any of the mentioned basic strategies that could help in the lessening of future death and damage from hurricanes. In the meantime, the population along the American Gulf Coast is increasing in a steady way and at the same time has caused a number of experts to question the lasting sustainability of such coastal communities (Harbert, 2010).
Natural disasters touch the unconquerable strength, courage and spirit of every individual. In addition to this, the failure and destruction that these unruly and wild events cause also expose humans' deepest fears. However, it simultaneously brings out the best in people when they reach out to help others recreate their lives. Hurricane Ike is considered as one of the American nation's most noteworthy natural disasters. This gigantic and monstrous Category 2 storm crashed into the coastline of Texas on Saturday, September 13, 2008, at around 2:10 A.M. CDT, with winds about 110 mph. Nonetheless, Ike was not a normal Category 2 hurricane. The storm advanced itself to a Category 4 hurricane as it hit the highest point of its power ("Hurricane Ike Residential," 2008).
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the American gulf coast and caused lasting and far-reaching effects. It caused massive flooding in the city of New Orleans. The devastation did not end there and Katrina did cataclysmic and tragic damage along the gulf coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. As a consequence, Katrina caused one of the biggest and most unexpected replacements of people in the history of United States. The dilemma and troubles of evacuees was a central topic in the national news reporting of the storm (Groen & Polivka, 2008).
Emergency Funds: Use during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike
When United States got overwhelmed by the Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike, the federal government came forward to assist on the request of the concerned authorities and governors. Federal assistance is conditional when the President issues an emergency or major disaster declaration. When the President issues the declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides disaster relief to the affected areas through the use of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). DRF is the resource of providing financial support for the Robert T. Stafford Emergency Relief and Disaster Assistance Act response and recovery programs. Moreover, Congress also appropriates money to the Disaster Relief Fund to make certain that funding for disaster relief is accessible to lend a hand to the victimized individuals and communities that were stricken by the storms (Lindsay & Murray, 2011).
The DRF is usually funded at an intensity that is adequate for what are known as "ordinary" disasters. However, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike were such incidents for which DRF expenditures were less than $500 million. Therefore, funding for the DRF was augmented through the emergency supplemental appropriations after the storms struck the country. DHS (Department of Homeland Security) was the primary recipient of emergency supplemental appropriations when Katrina destroyed the infrastructure. It received 57% of the total emergency supplemental funding for disaster assistance. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) received 16%. 13% was granted to the Department of Defense Army Corps of Engineers (another 7% was given to DOD for miscellaneous activities). Last but not the least, the Department of Transportation received 3% (Lindsay & Murray, 2011).
The Congress passed supplemental appropriations bills in 2005 without any delay after Hurricane Katrina caused widespread damage and loss of life on the Gulf coast. This devastating hurricane made landfall at the end of August and within 2 weeks, two supplemental appropriations bills were passed by the Congress that provided a total of sixty two billion dollars in funding ("Growing Misuse of," 2010).
However, as the consequences of Hurricane Katrina appear, a big question that still lingers in the minds of the people is that what happened to all the money. Billions of dollars were contributed by music entertainers, celebrities, leaders, elite organizations and nations from all over the world in Katrina aid to federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Nevertheless, many victims are "facing constant deadlines, struggling to find jobs, filing complex paperwork and slowly returning to their storm-torn cities" (Muhammad, 2007) have still not received their promised share for rebuilding their homes and reorganizing their lives.
FEMA has turned out to be just a 4-letter word that is now often used by the survivors when they utter their frustrations. The Louisiana state officials have taken on the weight of the heightened pressure by city populace, city and township leaders who have protested against the crawling pace of the hurricane revival. Much of this intensified tension between state and local officials in Louisiana has stemmed from postponement in federal programs that were ascertained to compensate local officials for several infrastructure project as well as road repairs, public building construction and wreckage removal (Muhammad, 2007).
The state of Louisiana was paid about $5.1 billion by the Federal Emergency Management Agency so that local officials could be reimbursed for infrastructure projects following Katrina. However, only about $2 billion of the amount reached communities almost eighteen months after Katrina had eighty percent of the city of New Orleans under water. Till then, other towns had been completely vanished from the map (Muhammad, 2007). The question is simple: where has the rest of the money gone? How were the emergency funds released after Hurricanes Katrina and Ike used?
Firstly, the state held up the payments that FEMA approved for rebuilding public assistance projects. Secondly, the Road Home Program initiated by Governor Kathleen Blanco became the target of continuous condemnation since its commencement. Various politicians, community leaders, somnolent residents and homeowners criticized it openly. Their complains revolved around the fact that the Road Home Program was presented as a solution to the residential problem. However, instead of solving it, the program proved to be another headache for the people. The Road Home Program was planned for helping the residents of Louisiana who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. It aimed to get those people back into their homes as rapidly and fairly as possible. However, the citizens did not become impressed by this largest single housing recovery program in the history of United States. What they wanted was a picking up of the pace of all the activity so that they can quickly get a place where they could start their lives again. In order to get their demands heard, the citizens also staged more than a few marches and rallies on the steps of the State Capital. It is quite astonishing that almost 96,000 Louisiana residents applied for the Road Home federal grants of up to $150,000; only about hundred applicants got the money. In November 2006, Louisiana families were mailed 10,000 Road…