Anticipating natural disasters of their own, Canadian officials waited until the lessons from Hurricane Katrina were clearly established, then sent a team to New Orleans.
The result, of significance to emergency planners everywhere, is a report from the Conference Board of Canada, “Tough Times in the Big Easy, Lessons from a Catastrophe.” It’s the first in a series the Conference Board plans on Katrina’s lessons.
The report begins by noting that Katrina, which struck August 29, 2005, was “the most devastating natural disaster in American history.”
“Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than 300,000 homes, displacing 770,000 residents and killing at least 1,300, with total damages likely to exceed US$200 billion.” The stakes in disciplined emergency planning and communication could not be clearer.
The Canadians list as lessons learned, to be treated in greater detail:
â€¢ Invest in critical infrastructure. (It’s estimated that strong levees in New Orleans would cost $1 billion, but compare that to the $100 billion in damages in New Orleans alone.)
â€¢ Establish clear leadership to prevent confusion and improve coordination. (Effective emergency governance is a key challenge.)
â€¢ Communicate effectively between organizations.
â€¢ Implement lessons learned immediately. (A drill, “Hurricane Pam,” 13 months earlier foreshadowed Katrina, but its lessons weren’t applied.)
The Canadians can study Katrina with dispassion. That makes their insights all the more valuable for emergency and security planners in the U.S.