M4A1 Case Analysis: Plans versus Politics: New Orleans after Katrina
PAPER MUST BE ORIGINAL WORK AND NOT PLAGIARIZED
In writing about the case, consider the following:
1. Which organizational functions should be involved in disaster recovery planning?
2. What is the role of each of these organizational functions in effective disaster recovery planning?
Your work should be submitted in a Word document, 2 pages in length (excluding the title and the references pages). The paper must be typed in double-space, in 12 point Arial or Times New Roman font. The page margins on the top, bottom, left side, and right side should be 1 inch each. You should include a title and a reference page, and follow APA formatting in citing and referencing sources.
Research paper will be subject to anti-plagiarism software prior to accepting.1
*This case study accompanies the IRGC report “Risk Governance Deficits: An analysis and illustration of the most
common deficits in risk governance”.
The Response to Hurricane Katrina
By Donald P. Moynihan
Hurricane Katrina occurred four years after the attacks of 9/11, three years after the subsequent
creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and one year after the DHS had created
a National Response Plan. But despite the heightened attention to homeland security, the
response to Katrina was a failure. The world watched as government responders seemed unable
to offer basic protection from the ravages of nature. The titles of two congressional reports
summarised the sense of failure. A Select House Committee [House Report, 2006] identified “A
Failure of Initiative” while the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
[Senate Report, 2006] judged the United States “A Nation Still Unprepared.”
The poor response arose from a failure to manage a number of risk factors. The risks of a major
hurricane striking New Orleans had been long considered, and there was enough warning of the
threat of Katrina that declarations of emergency were made days in advance of landfall. But
responders failed to convert this information into a level of preparation appropriate with the scope
of the impending disaster. The dispersed nature of authority in the US intergovernmental
response system further weakened response, as federal responders failed to recognise the need
to more actively engage. In any case, many of the key institutional capacities to manage the
response at every level of government were inadequate. In particular, the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) had been weakened during the Bush administration. The DHS was
also an untested organisation, unsure of how to deploy its authority and resources. A key failing
of DHS leadership was an inability to understand Katrina as an incident of national significance
on par with 9/11. Instead, they responded as if it was a routine natural disaster until it was too
Overview of the Risk Issue
Hurricane Katrina was the largest natural disaster in the United States in living memory, affecting
92,000 square miles and destroying much of a major city. Over 1,800 people died and tens of
thousands were left homeless and without basic supplies.
Katrina evolved into a series of connected crises, with two basic causes. The primary cause was
the hurricane itself, but no less important was the collapse of man-made levees meant to protect
a city built below sea-level. These factors unleashed a series of cascading problems that
characterises Katrina as an example of a new type of complex crisis. Patrick Lagadec [2008: 7]
describes this complexity: “Katrina caused persistent flooding, a series of industrial disasters,
critical evacuation challenges, widespread lethal pollution, the destruction of 90% of the essential
utility networks (energy, communications, water etc.), unprecedented public safety concerns,
concern over the possible loss of the port area (which is essential to the continent's economy),
even uncertainty as to whether portions of the city could be saved.”
The threat of such a disaster had been noted for some time, and even had its own name – “the
New Orleans scenario.” In the years prior to Katrina, FEMA staff ranked the New Orleans
Associate Professor and Associate Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison.