Hurricane Katrina & FEMA: Disaster Tips

On August 25, 2005 Hurricane Katrina came to the northern part of Miami, Florida first as a tropical storm that developed into a hurricane in just one day. It broke the levee system of New Orleans, bringing flood and rendering thousands of people dead while sending a million more people out of their homes. Hurricane Katrina was considered to be the costliest natural disaster in the history of the country.

The effects were beyond catastrophic. Houses and stores had been looted; cars were stolen and violence had been reported leading to arrests of individuals. The death toll was predicted to reach up to 10,000. There had been reports, too, that in New Orleans alone there were already some 5,000 persons missing. Because of the flooding and people in the hurricane affected areas feared the health problems that ensued such as dehydration, food poisoning and diarrhea.

Hurricane Katrina had devastating effects not only in the US but also outside the region. Not counting the cost of the flood disaster in the United States and the interruption of the oil industry it was predicted that the cost of the damage could reach up to $100 billion. Because of this the global prices for oil rose. Flights had been canceled; internet connections that would make live reports on the New Orleans disaster possible were also interrupted. Scientific, medical and military research facilities had been destroyed.

The Federal Emergency Management Emergency had already issued pre-Katrina response warnings. They have mobilized the deployment of their logistic supply and assigned volunteers to give assistance to residents in the affected areas. FEMA is responsible for the task of coordinating with the local, state and federal agencies to respond to all kinds of natural disasters. Its major responsibilities are to provide aid for the disaster victims to rebuild their homes, community facilities and businesses as well as training emergency professionals. It is also responsible for the provision of funds for the emergency planning in all of the United States. The FEMA is concerned with the four important realms of managing emergency namely: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The role of FEMA during emergency disasters cannot be underestimated. Despite the apparent disorientation that Hurricane Katrina brought to the agency, it is still important to take heed of their storm response tips.

Hurricane Preparedness

Here are some essential to-dos during a hurricane:

Pre-Hurricane Season. The first thing to do is look for a safe route in case evacuation from your home during a hurricane is necessary. If you have been provided with a hurricane preparedness plan begin tracking the safest routes that lead to inland shelters. Pack on your bag the following essentials: flashlight and batteries, emergency food and water, first aid kit and medicines, a portable battery-operated radio, cash/credit cards, heavy-duty shoes and can opener.

Since pets may not be allowed to stay with humans in evacuation sites, they must be brought to animal shelters before the storm even hits.

Get yourself a flood insurance as soon as possible since it may take some thirty days of waiting before the policy takes effect.

Anticipate loss of contact. Because the hurricane is unpredictable, all the members of the family should be informed on how to respond when it strikes. Children must be taught how to turn off gas, electric and water facilities and how to communicate information through 911 emergency police and the local radio stations. A post-hurricane plan must also be adopted – have all the names, addresses and phone numbers of contact persons known to all the family members in case they get separated after the disaster.

Hurricane Season. Whether the reports say the hurricane will be strong or not anticipate flooding in your area. Place your important papers and other valuables inside containers in the highest places in your house and bring in your equipment from the garden or lawn that may possibly break during the storm. Keep the radio always turned on. Your car should be fueled up. Store potable water in clean containers such as bottles and jugs. Fix and protect your windows with marine plywood and boards.

Hurricane Presence within 24 Hours. The hurricane may arrive when you are at work, at home or in the streets. Wherever you are, stay away from glass windows and doors, especially elevators. Keep your radio on to listen for official storm instructions and keep extra batteries too. Should you evacuate, make sure that all your appliances and water valves are turned off. Heave your furniture to a higher storey if you still have time. Before leaving your house, check your emergency supplies, blankets and sleeping bags. Wear warm clothes and leave as soon as possible.

Post-Hurricane. Unless the there is an official announcement that evacuees can return safely home, you must stay in the shelter. The terrain will be much difficult to cross now so avoid driving in flooded areas and bridges. You may encounter some injured persons along the way and if this happens do not move them, use your first aid kit and call for emergency assistance. Take photos of the damages that occurred in your house so you can make insurance claims. Ventilate your house and check for some stray animals and insects. Do not go near hanging power lines and have them reported to the authorities as soon as possible. Most importantly, check your gas, electric and water facilities. If you smell leaks, open the window, turn off the gas valve and leave your house or building. Call for the gas company for help. Turn off your main breakers if you spot electrical wire damages too. Don’t step on the flood water. If you suspect some damage on your water pipes also try not to drink tap water from your faucet. Call for the plumber to have it fixed.

For us ordinary citizens, a National Response Plan may just be the next best thing when hurricanes come. However, our own readiness should still be on top of our precaution list.

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