Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned

The primary and causative failure of government, according to the U.S. House report (2006), was that officials did not develop an adequate or accurate situational picture in a timely fashion. This lead to minimal preparation, ineffective evacuation plans, and an slow logistical supply chains for moving needed assets into the area to aid with the response. The second mistake, according to the report, was officials distancing themselves from the failures politically. This sole act (by many in the leadership) served only to protract the response and recovery and confuse the populace. Understandably, however, the politicians certainly wanted to be removed from the situation, as they could have lessened the burden years earlier with use of specific appropriations. Funds designed to mitigate the exposure of the Gulf coast to hurricanes were not spent as intended, if at all.

Looking back on the situation, had each government activated their EOC and staffed it with reputable public safety officials to run the response, the situational picture would have been clearer, especially with the various EOCs communicating together (Walsh et al., 2012). The plan might have coalesced into the use of an area command with resources deployed in task force and strike team convention as needed. Certainly, though, the public message would have been singular, to the point, and helpful to the public (Walsh et al., 2012). This would have lead to an expedited response and coordinated evacuations prior to landfall of Hurricane Katrina, which was said to be “predicted with unprecedented timeliness and accuracy” (U.S. House of Representatives, 2006, ix).


U.S. House of Representatives. (2006). A failure of initiative: Final report of the select bipartisan committee to investigate the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Walsh, D. W., Christen, H. T., Callsen, C. E., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., Lord, G. C., & Dolan, N. J. (2012). National Incident Management System: principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.