Lessons from Katrina: How disaster response has changed since the hurricane

World Today

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the U.S. It killed more than 1,800 people  and caused more than $100 billion in damage. That was over a decade ago. But in some ways, Katrina changed the way authorities prepare for and respond to disasters.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

It was a disaster in every sense of the word. Hurricane Katrina was a textbook case, two experts argued, of how not to deal with a catastrophe.

Anthropologist Kate Browne of Colorado State University and Sociologist Lori Peek with the University of Colorado Boulder have spent years studying Hurricane Katrina. Many experts said Katrina was a shocking example of how not to prepare for, respond to and recover from a storm of that magnitude.

Memories of Hurricane Katrina came flooding back recently when Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas. Some people wondered if the U.S. had learned any lessons from Katrina when it came to disaster response.

Peek said planning and coordination among emergency managers was much improved during that hurricane. There was less panic than 12 years ago, and more accurate information for those who could be in danger.

Browne said unlike with Katrina, volunteers were welcomed to help with rescues and the evacuation of animals was made a priority.

However, the circumstances are different in a place like Houston, with its lack of green space to absorb rainwater and what Peek and Browne term its over-development. These conditions made Hurricane Harvey more destructive than it should have been.

Both Peek and Browne said it’s still too early to determine whether displaced residents in this year’s hurricanes have been treated fairly.