From what I’ve been reading, New Orleans and the United States have learned a lot from Katrina. In the days leading up to Katrina, many poor decisions were made at all levels of government, and by the citizens of New Orleans. With the destruction of Katrina fresh in their mind, some of the complications of the past should be avoided.
One decision that bothered me during Katrina was the decision to use the Superdome as a shelter. Citizens were being told to evacuate, yet the city was providing a shelter. At the time, I thought the decision to offer a placed to stay undermined the message about how destructive Katrina would be. Fortunately, the evacuations have started, there will be no shelters, and citizens have been informed that there will be no emergency police or fire service. This is the right decision because it helps underscore the severity of the threat. I know that there will be people criticizing the decision not to have shelters or police and fire services available, but if they were available, would that be sending the right message? The people of New Orleans need to know how dire the situation is, and one way of illustrating the severity is to completely shut down the city.
Fortunately, the city and state have also started busing residents to inland locations sooner. Since the storm is expected to reach land on Monday afternoon, having nearly 3 days to move citizens to safe areas increases the likelihood that as many people as possible will be brought to safety. There should be plenty of buses, shelters, and supplies for all the citizens. If not, there will be a lot of questions to answer.
At the federal level, the National Guard has already been mobilized and FEMA is starting to prepare. After the embarassing reaction to Katrina, the federal government appears to be doing everything right. It’s still early in the process, but it is encouraging to see that there are professionals poised to respond to this potential disaster. Everyone knows that their response will be analyzed under a microscope, and that the slightest failing will be magnified and publicized. With that said, I am expecting nothing less than a brilliant effort. It won’t make up for the post-Katrina failings, but it will show that a lesson has been learned.
Now that the city of New Orleans, the State of Louisiana, and the United States have showed signs that they have learned from past mistakes, we are left with one question. Have the citizens of New Orleans learned? Will they follow evacuation orders by using the transportation that is being provided? We can only hope.