Hurricane Katrina, which hit several states of the US in 2005, was one of the deadliest natural disasters in the country’s history. The areas most severely impacted by the hurricane were Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi (Shah, 2005). The number of victims exceeded a thousand people, and there were some demographic peculiarities uniting the majority of the fatalities. The city that suffered the most from the hurricane was New Orleans. Specialists say that the major reason why so many people were not able to escape death was that the city’s poverty rate in 2005 was twice as big as the national one, and it constituted 23% (Heldman, 2011). Also, the city was highly segregated. As a result, there were many people below the poverty threshold who had no chances to escape even if the evacuation plan was effective. The following statistics of victims’ demographics were issued:
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- 55% of people had no car to leave;
- 76% stayed in shelters together with their children under the age of 18;
- 93% were African Americans;
- the education level of 77% was high school or lower;
- 68% had no credit cards or savings;
- the household income of 57% of families did not exceed $20,000 in 2004 (Heldman, 2011).
Moreover, the variety of people living the city presupposed communication barriers since there were many languages used.
Taking into consideration these demographic peculiarities of the region that suffered from the hurricane the most, it seems that in addressing the questions of rebuilding and recovery, the government should have paid attention to multicultural and social justice issues in the first place. However, the officials failed to do so, which led to considerable criticism of government’s reaction (PBS, 2009). Gheytanchi et al. (2007) outlined the major failures of the government’s response to the tragedy:
- the deficiency of communication: there was no proper communication between the state and federal government;
- the insufficient coordination plans: there were too few resources available, and frequently, there was no possibility to fulfill some tasks;
- unclear authority relationships: it was not obvious who was in charge;
- the question of whether the state or federal government had to be in charge;
- insufficient attention to natural hazards;
- not enough preparation and questionable training standards;
- the lack of conclusions made from the previous natural disasters;
- the evaluation of performance was not included in the process;
- disproportionate division of resources for Blacks and poor people;
- too much chaos;
- no personal readiness and too much relying upon the state;
- an unnecessary focus on mental health recovery.
These and other challenges to organizational learning in crisis management should be resolved in an effective and prompt way, especially in the conditions of an emergency. Lopez-Baez and Paylo (2009) establish two domains of advocacy competency that might have been applied in 2005: systems advocacy and community collaboration. These options seem rather suitable to have been used to address the social justice and multicultural issues that rose after the disaster. The principle of community collaboration consists of eight advocacy competencies:
- establishing the environmental factors that threaten people;
- warning the community about the danger;
- forming associations to make change together;
- employing listening skills to reach the understanding of the objectives;
- determining the resources and strengths that may help;
- recognizing these strengths and treating them respectfully;
- suggesting the skills that may help in the process of collaboration;
- evaluating the impact of collaboration between the community and the counselor (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2003).
Systems advocacy competencies established by Lewis et al. (2003) are as follows:
- determining the environmental factors that threaten the community;
- supplying and clarifying data that demonstrates the need for change;
- creating a vision together with other stakeholders;
- inspecting the sources of social impact and political power;
- designing a plan for putting the change plan into action;
- creating a plan for coping with reactions to change;
- admitting and managing the resistance;
- evaluating the outcomes of advocacy efforts.
Therefore, it would have been possible to avoid the failures outlined by Gheytanchi et al. (2007) with the help of at least one set of advocacy competencies suggested and characterized by Lewis et al. (2003). Apart from these options, there was a possibility of design-build. This system of delivering projects presupposes the performance of designing and constructing activities by the same organization (“About DBIA and design-build,” (n.d.). With the help of this method, it is possible to finish large projects within a shorter timeframe and using fewer resources and efforts. Taking into consideration the scale of disastrous impact of hurricane Katrina, design-build seems to have been the most appropriate way of returning the opportunity of a normal life to thousands of people who had suffered. However, the government failed again when it did not implement this method. One more considerable problem was not including the issues of social and cultural justice into the plan of rebuilding the regions that suffered from the hurricane.
Therefore, the most appropriate ways of managing the aftermath of hurricane Katrina would have been design-build, community collaboration, and systems advocacy. These methods would have led to the establishment of fair conditions for the minority groups the population of which was the most vulnerable when the disaster came.
About DBIA and design-build. (n.d.). Web.
Gheytanchi, A., Joseph, L., Gierlach, E., Kimpara, S., Housley, J., Franco, Z. E., & Beutler, L. (2007). The dirty dozen: Twelve failures of the Hurricane Katrina response and how psychology can help. American Psychologist, 62(2), 118-130.
Heldman, C. (2011). Hurricane Katrina and the demographics of death. The Society Pages. Web.
Lewis, J. A., Arnold, M. S., House, R., & Toporek, R. L. (2003). Advocacy competencies. Web.
Lopez-Baez, S., & Paylo, M. J. (2009). Social justice advocacy: Community collaboration and systems. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87(3), 276-283.
PBS. (Producer). (2009). The journal: Katrina recovery gone wrong? [Television series episode]. Web.
Shah, A. (2005). Hurricane Katrina. Global Issues. Web.