Emergency management, both on state and local levels, demands coordinated actions from a diversity of agencies involved in this process. To meet the needs of communities and individuals affected by disasters and avoid unlawful discrimination, the US state departments developed “Guidance to state and local governments and other federally assisted recipients engaged in emergency preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery activities on compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). The mentioned guidance was prompted by the experience of emergency management activities during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This paper analyzes the connection between the National Guidance and Hurricane Katrina.
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The Necessity of the National Guidance
Actions of state authorities and agencies during natural disasters such as hurricanes demand thoughtful coordination and careful application of emergency management interventions. One of the important aspects of Guidance is the provision of equal services in an emergency situation to all community members disregarding their national origin, race, or color (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). A devastating hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, and it was not a unique disaster for the American coastline. Therefore, there is a huge probability that a similar disaster repeats.
Usually, a severe natural disaster causes much destruction, which leads to confusion of authorities and the population. In the case of hurricane Katrina, partially due to broken communication, there was much confusion in emergency and law enforcement reactions from different ranges of officials. The lack of centralized support lead, in its turn, to panic and chaos, which made the rescue interventions more complicated and even caused the necessity to involve active military forces (Tkacz, 2006). Thus, the experience of Hurricane Katrina and similar disasters prompted the creation of Guidance, which is a product of cooperation among the United States Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Transportation.
The Execution of the Guidance during Hurricane
The events after Hurricane Katrina revealed many cases of discrimination. For example, African American citizens of New Orleans who did not have cars had problems with evacuation because the local authorities did not provide enough public transportation, thus failing to consider the needs of this population group (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). The issue of housing after the hurricane also became a problem for racial and ethnic minorities. Thus, they faced discrimination during their attempts to rent a place to live.
The Guidance under consideration promises the implementation of practices that guarantee Title IV compliance in the process of emergency and disaster management (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). First of all, it reaffirms commitment to nondiscrimination protections. It means that more people can be rescued irrespective of their race or nationality. In case this strategy had been used during the rescue interventions after Hurricane Katrine, the number of victims could have been significantly reduced.
Another point of the Guidance involves engagement and inclusion of diverse populations, including those with limited knowledge of English (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). This aspect should include activities to inform all population groups about the coming disaster considering their poor knowledge of English. Thus, different tools have to be applied. Informing about emergency management interventions is a crucial component of the rescue process. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the information and communication aspect was one of those that failed.
One more aspect of the Guidance is the inclusion of immigrant communities in all the efforts related to preparation, mitigation, and recovery after a disaster (The United States Department of Justice, 2016). During rescue interventions that followed Hurricane Katrina, this aspect was neglected and led to more victims among immigrants. Thus, there is a need for more services providing life protection and safety without any restrictions on the basis of the immigrant status. Also, disaster legal or crisis counseling services should be available for all the population groups, including immigrants.
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Another significant issue to consider is data collection and analysis. The Guidance claims that the needs of diverse racial and ethnic groups will be assessed to ensure that all the concepts of Title IV are followed, and these populations are included in preparation, mitigation, and recovery interventions after a hurricane. These interventions should be provided on both state and local levels.
On the whole, Hurricane Katrina provided a lesson for the authorities of different levels. It was an example of inefficient disaster management and thus led to the development of the Guidance aimed at future avoidance of mistakes. The Guidance is a result of a common effort of departments involved in emergency management and is a guarantee that in case of emergency, every American citizen receives the necessary help. Consequently, emergency management interventions should consider the needs of ethnic and racial minorities, immigrants, and people who do not speak English well. Therefore, this Guidance is a significant document that is expected to provide better outcomes for people living in the districts that suffer from hurricanes or other natural disasters.
The United States Department of Justice. (2016). Guidance to state and local governments and other federally assisted recipients engaged in emergency preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery activities on compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Washington, DC: The United States Department of Justice.
Tkacz, S. R. (2006). In Katrina’s wake: Rethinking the military’s role in domestic emergencies. William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 15(1), 301-334.