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Learning Lessons From Hurricane Response and Recovery

Oct 02, 2018
Rachael Bryson Rachael Bryson
Senior Research Associate,
National Security and Public Safety

Hurricane Florence’s devastation has been felt across North Carolina. The storm, which was thought at one point to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall on September 13, 2018, as a Category 2. In the days leading up to the storm, as many as 1.7 million people were told to evacuate the coast and emergency measures were enacted to protect life and critical assets.

The Conference Board of Canada has conducted research to identify lessons from two of the worst hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. in recent memory to help the Canadian emergency management community improve their responsiveness and preparedness. In 2006, a study tour of New Orleans sought to identify key lessons learned from the response and recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina. In 2014, a study tour to New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy had the same goal.

The first study tour, 15 months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, led to a report that detailed the failure of governance in the emergency response. It highlighted the need to “invest in critical infrastructure,” to “establish clear leadership to prevent confusion and improve coordination,” to “improve communication between organizations” involved in emergency efforts, and to move swiftly to implement identified lessons following a major natural disaster.

The study tour of Hurricane Sandy, held 17 months after the emergency event, demonstrated that the harsh lessons from Katrina led to “foundational improvements that strengthened and clarified leadership and ensured a more unified and coordinated effort in responding to major disasters.” Despite these hard lessons, challenges remained in five key areas: “leadership, coordination and cooperation, relationship-building, planning, and infrastructure investment.”

We know that FEMA’s response to Hurricane Harvey reflected lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. We also know that preparations for, and the response to, Hurricane Harvey were hampered by a lack of coordination between levels of government. In 2019, we will be coordinating a study tour in Houston, Texas, to learn from the experiences of emergency managers and responders to Hurricane Harvey, and to see what lessons have truly been learned.

As the Conference Board develops its findings from this tour, and as more details emerge about the response to Florence, we will be looking at what lessons have been successfully implemented and what new challenges these megastorms pose to emergency managers and responders. We will also be asking what the Canadian emergency management community can learn from these response and recovery efforts in order to improve their emergency plans and resilience in the face of our own growing extreme weather events.

If you are interested in learning more about the study tour to Houston, please contact Debbie Fleck.


Related Webinar

ARTful Meta-Leadership: The Future of Emergency Management Leadership
October 3, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. EDT


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