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What they did not anticipate was the levees breaking nor were they aware of the level of immediate need of the people. He also says that with Hurricane Andrew, about two million residents were evacuated and only about 10% we left homeless whereas with Hurricane Katrina approximately the same number of residents were evacuated yet over 90% were left homeless (Halton, 2006). This was much more of a burden than FEMA had anticipated and it was a result of poor emergency response at lower levels of government.
Even still, FEMA should have been better prepared to handle the situation. They should have been called in earlier than they were and if this were the case they situation would have been easier to manage. Paulison says that FEMA was not fully aware of what was needed and where. This is a result of poor communication. By the time they were called in, the situation was the main story on all media outlets, especially television. FEMA should have had a strong sense of what was going on and what the immediate needs of the people were. There is no excuse for people going without food and water for days if FEMA had an abundant supply of these things.
Along with FEMA at the federal level of government, President Bush probably received the most criticism for the way that the situation was handled. He has been accused of everything from a slow response to Hurricane Katrina because the majority of the residents were African-American to the National Guard was short staffed because too many were service overseas in the war on Iraq. Many regard the fact that Bush remained on vacation two days after the hurricane hit as his lack of concern for the suffering citizens of New Orleans. The president even refused help from international governments saying that America can fend for itself. Even the president's wife, Barbara Bush came under fire for her flippant remarks about how the residents should be used to living in the conditions that were at the Superdome because, according to her, those conditions were probably much better than where they lived before.
Although President Bush cannot take all of the blame for Hurricane Katrina, he certainly bears a substantial amount of the blame. His apparent lack of concern is what stays with most people as many have expressed disbelief that this country rushed to the aid of the Tsunami victims in 2004, yet it did not appear to be concerned about its own. His refusal of international help solidified for many that he really did not care about the residents of New Orleans or their welfare. What Bush should have done was take control of the National Guard from the state of Louisiana instead of having a bickering match with the governor. It was obvious that the people were suffering and in need of relief and if Bush saw that Blanco was dragging her feet, he should have exercised control and allowed the federal government to take over the relief and recovery efforts.
Not only did the majority of the American public blame Bush for the Hurricane Karina fiasco, political cartoonist threw their hat in the ring, too. According to Kelley-Romano and Westgate, "Political cartoons fulfill a unique function in an age of instantaneous media. During times of crisis, as citizens are able to watch disasters unfold on television and computer screens, political cartoons critique situations, make attributions, and attack those presumed to be responsible." (2007). This statement became evident after the many caricatures of President Bush were seen in the aftermath. Most of them portray the president in a negative light and as a buffoon.
No one can accurately predict the devastation that will be caused in a natural disaster such as a hurricane. This does not imply that emergency preparedness should not occur at all levels of government. The purpose of planning for a disaster is to follow through with the plan in case a disaster actually strikes. The city of New Orleans is no stranger to hurricanes. They have been experiencing them for years with some being mild and some severe. There was poor preparation and response on the part of all three levels of government, but the local level should bear the brunt of the blame because of the mayor's lack of follow through with the plan already set in place. Because he did not do as he should have, this disaster escalated into a tragedy that could have been avoided. Everyone pointed fingers at the other party and all three levels should share in the responsibility because all failed the citizens of New Orleans on some level during this ordeal. Hopefully, lessons were learned so that a tragedy of this magnitude will never be repeated.
Halton, B. (2006). FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina. Fire Engineering, 159(5), 213-218.
Kelley-Romano, S. And Westgate, V. (2007). Blaming Bush: An analysis of political cartoons following Hurricane Katrina. Journalism Studies, 8(5), 755-719.
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