- What act stuck out to you the most? Why?
The act that stuck out most for me was people stranded and going for days without food, yet the authorities still promised to bring buses that would take them to a safer location. Consequently, this stood out because it indicated that the local and national leaders were not prepared to help the victims that survived the flood, as presented in this American Life Episode 296: After the flood. (2005). There were no resources or shelter or help for days, making the situation more traumatizing and unbearable. Additionally, most people were trapped in hospitals, hotels, and at the convention center without food, water, sanitary conditions, or any form of care from emergency responders. They also received threats if anyone tried to cross the bridge or move out of New Orleans. Therefore, these actions were highly degrading and inhuman, especially to individuals who had just survived a natural calamity.
- What would you find the most challenging as someone?
The most challenging situation as someone involved in the recovery team would be witnessing people suffering, risking personal harm, intensive workloads, making death and life decisions, and being separated from loved ones. All these situations would lead to stress and anxiety, which is not suitable for an emergency responder. In this situation, I would be stressed seeing people stuck in hallways and sleeping in unhygienic surroundings without any food or water for several days. Also, seeing older people suffering yet they cannot take care of themselves and tiny babies crying would be challenging to handle.
- How might these experiences have been better prevented?
These experiences would have been prevented through effective preparedness before the disaster. The essential part of emergency preparedness is effective communication (Alexander, 2015). All individuals require honest and frequent communication to prevent them from imagining the worst. Also, authorities would have communicated earlier about the expected flood to help people evacuate the area before it happened. However, there was late communication, which left most people stranded and homeless. Also, the surviving victims were given false information about buses coming to rescue them, and they waited for days hoping and imagining the worst. Honest communication can help people plan earlier and prevent severe consequences like those experienced in this scenario.
- What can we do to build more resilient communities BEFORE a disaster strikes so the impact of such a disaster is lessened?
Several strategies can be used to build resilient communities before a disaster strikes. First, they assess the capabilities and needs in terms of community preparedness, training, and awareness. State emergency responders require tools such as assessment mechanisms, model asset inventory for communities, and model emergency response guides to be successful. Also, there should be adequate reconstruction, recovery, and response (Alexander, 2015). Subsequently, this ensures emergency responders are fully trained to handle any situation that may occur in emergencies. Finally, multidisciplinary training encourages easier understanding and makes it easier for people to cooperate in emergencies.
- What must be done AFTER a disaster in this context to build community recovery and resilience?
To build community resilience and recovery in this context after a disaster, it is essential to manage the donated resources and volunteers (Alexander, 2015). Resources should be used where they are most needed with total restrictions. Reconstruction, recovery, and response plans should involve training the coordination of volunteers and managing the donated resources. This ensures that all individuals receive the care they require without shortages, especially in medical cases where drugs and first aid kits are needed. In this case, if there were enough resources and responders, people would have been rescued immediately after the flood and would not have to wait three days for help.
Alexander, D. E. (2015). Disaster and emergency planning for preparedness, response, and recovery. Oxford University Press.
- This American Life Episode 296: After the flood. (2005, September 9). Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/296/after-the-flood
What act stuck out to you the most? Why?
Just like David, all the Acts stuck out in different ways. However the sense of frustration I felt for these poor, helpless,and desperate people as well as the anger I felt towards the end when the paramedics then were able to escape through their own connections leaving behind the many others they formed a community with in Act 2 Forgotten, But Not Lost stuck out to me the most. It just sounds so crazy to me that there’s like a bunch of tired people trying to walk out of a city, and the Gretna police were shooting at people and yelling. It truly was insane. I did enjoy the section on how a small group of 8 turned into 60-70 people and created a home within the center divide of the Pontchartrain Expressway. Through this act of resilience they were adaptable to their surroundings and were to recover enough in a way. They had food, water, a makeshift bathroom, some sort of shelter. Even a safe place for the kids.
What would you find the most challenging as someone involved in Emergency Management or as part of a Recovery team?
When work environments are stressful it can be harmful to your health. I think the most challenging would be the emotional toll. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions. The feeling of not doing enough or being enough to save these people in emergencies can really take a toll and often lead to survivor’s guilt.
How might these experiences have been better prevented?
In order for these experiences to have been better prevented, understanding, managing, and reducing disaster risks can provide a foundation for building resilience to disasters. Invest in enhancing resilience. Enhanced resilience allows better anticipation of disasters and better planning to reduce disaster losses—rather than waiting for an event to occur and paying for it afterward.
What can we do to build more resilient communities BEFORE a disaster strikes so the impact of such a disaster is lessened?
Every individual and community in the nation should have access to the risk and vulnerability information they need to make their communities more resilient. Community members must work together to draw on community strengths as well as empower and support each other.
- All levels of government, communities, and the private sector have designed resilience strategies and operation plans based on this information.
- Community coalitions are widely organized, recognized, and supported to provide essential services before and after disasters occur.
- Nationwide, the public is universally safer, healthier, and better educated.
What must be done AFTER a disaster in this context to build community recovery and resilience?
Without some numerical means of assessing resilience it would be impossible to identify the priority needs for improvement, to monitor changes, to show that resilience had improved, or to compare the benefits of increasing resilience with the associated costs.
Increasing disaster resilience is crucial and requires the collective will of the nation and its communities. Although disasters will continue to occur, actions that move the nation from reactive approaches to disasters to a proactive stance where communities actively engage in enhancing resilience will reduce many of the broad societal and economic burdens that disasters can cause. Building local, community capacity because decisions and the ultimate resilience of a community are driven from the bottom up.
The act that struck out to me most was the visualization of how the convention center was. The whole place was like a sewer. People were urinating, and defecating on the floor, and people were getting raped. There was no where for people to sleep, which forced people to sleep on the sidewalk hoping that they did not get told to move by the National Guards. Other factors that struck out the most to me was that people were living like animals. They did not have food, water, or clean clothes. Most described this situation as waiting to die. The people of New Orleans tried hard to escaped and every time they tried, they were told to turn around or get shoot. This concept of thinking the government was here to protect and serve, ending up being the complete opposite. They were killing, and allowing complete anarchy. These ideas are what struck out to me the most. Mainly why could something like this be allowed, and how this could be justified as help. The government was harming, not helping the American people.
What I would find the most challenging as someone involved in Emergency Management is the inability to bring in clothes, food, and water to the people of New Orleans. The podcast stated that they didn’t even see a Red Cross truck. The only way people were getting food, water, and clothes was sharing from others, looting and stealing. There was a part in the podcast that I found interesting when they stated the criminals were actually helping people in need. They did steal, and loot but it was for a good cause. They got food, water, and clothes for people that truly needed it. They helped children, and elderly first, and made sure they had what they needed. They worked as a community and shared their resources with each other. I truly loved hearing how they made a make shift diaper for an incontinent person so that this individual would not soil themselves. This was a true example of a whole community approach.
These experiences could have been better prevented by learning the correct chain of command, and having proper communication. The problem started with first person in the chain of command. Who was in charge? This was the problem. Everyone seemed to not know who was going to give the next order. The blame game between federal, state and local officials are all to blame. No one seemed to want to do anything until it was too late. Pushing the problems off onto someone else is a big problem we face in the United States. It is one thing to be prepared for a disaster, yet it is another thing to actually react. Reacting quick enough could have saved many of lives.
One thing we can due to build more resilient communities is to connect with each other by sharing resources, and finding a way to support municipal staff, and politicians to financially get involved would be a big help. Just like in the case of the FEMA trailer park and the FEMA manager not knowing what to do. They did not know where the money was going to come from, and what do due next. Having a phase 2 plan like stated in the podcast would be extremely helpful to help build resilient communities.
What needs to be done after a disaster to help build community recovery, and resilience is to view what is right in front of you. Establish priorities and move forward. Try to figure out what needs to be done and act with purpose. Dealing with change may be hard, but the ability to adapt is just as important. Also connecting to people that you trust, and talking to someone will be helpful. Lastly reach out to the resources available such as disaster unemployment assistance, and crisis counseling assistance.
Wagner, C. (2005). Diaspora: After the Flood. The American Life, https://www.thisamericanlife.org/296/after-the-flood.