[ Ø ] Harsh Prakash

Quiet Musings on Cloud, Machine Learning, Big Data, Health, Disaster, et al.

Katrina Links

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Rethinking Flood Insurance” [09/21/2005]: A timely but poorly-researched editorial in The Washington Post on the levee problems plaguing the National Flood Insurance Program.

As much as some may cringe to what they see as their tax-dollars being spent on bail out, the often-omitted fact remains that many New Orleanians were not required by the National Flood Insurance Program to purchase flood insurance because they enjoyed the protection of levees. So the federal government through the Corps of Engineers is at least partly responsible for creating a false sense of security by failing to repair levees in a timely manner. Bear in mind that the State of California has been asked by its court to shoulder responsibility for damages from failure of levees for which it is a sponsor. And if we did not cry “welfare state” when the federal government stepped in to ease out the airline industry after 2001, surely we can hush our moans now.

For more discussion points, refer to this white paper by the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

While on this disaster as one watches events unfold, it becomes clear that an infuriating management style marked by a “hands-off” approach that is prone to making excuses for ignored red flags can only get rewarded for ideological and rhetorical reasons rather than merit. And such a management style finds a willing bed-partner in a “let’s-eat-at-steakhouse-since-the-proceeds-go-towards-relief-efforts” empathy-response. In itself, such a response cannot be right all the time for it is primarily detached and “feel good”.

The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 had laid down clear requirements to plan for such events. And as I understand, the National Incident Management System laid down a similar framework with regards to response-coordination. But no amount of planning [State of Louisiana Hazard Mitigation Plan, State of Alabama Hazard Mitigation Plan] could prevent the failure from happening.

Having observed this breakdown in leadership and with some benefit of experience, I cannot stress enough how planners should restrict their impulse to pen a plan for every problem and how they should also focus on becoming “political actors” for one cannot write a plan that accounts for the failure in carrying out the plan itself.

On another note, many of the residents of New Orleans were not required by the National Flood Insurance Program to purchase flood insurance since they were protected by levees. Although non-discriminatory exceptions can always be made, this further complicates relief efforts as it currently limits the amount of disaster assistance available through certain agencies.

• Blogs about this editorial
• Katrina
• Craigslist: Lost and Found- New Orleans LA, Baton Rouge LA
• Red Cross: Family Links Registry
• Lycos: Missing Persons Search
• Housing Information Gateway
• Shelter Map
• Information Map
• ESRI: Katrina Disaster Viewer
• Google Earth: Imagery
• NYT: Draining New Orleans Map
• Contact: Mitigation Planners and Substantial Damage Assessors

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    Written by Harsh

    September 21st, 2005 at 7:09 pm

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