--> Gill Blog: The Real Heroes of Katrina

Gill Blog

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Real Heroes of Katrina

I have had an excellent trip this week to Washington and New York to glean some of the latest perspectives on risk management, business continuity and emergency management. This morning, I took in the keynote address at the International Safety and Security Conference in New York, where I heard Rich Cooper, a Senior Official at the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Cooper provided a blunt assessment of the agency's role today and the measures that will need to maintain it's relevance on a going forward basis. One of the key messages in his speech was simply this: the effectiveness of Homeland Security will only be realized if close partnerships are formed with innovative firms in the private sector. In fact, when describing the response to Katrina, Mr. Cooper was unequivocal in his praise for private sector participants such as Wal-Mart, Target, Rite-Aid, Home Depot and FedEx.

In fact, he said, despite the occasional toxicity of the mere mention of the word Wal-Mart in some communities, they were in fact responsible for saving thousands of lives by providing food, shelter, water and medical supplies to displaced residents of the Gulf Coast before federal officials could make it to the scene. In addition to providing these needed staples of life, Wal-Mart also used its global distribution channels to amass millions of dollars in relief funding before such funding came in from the Federal Government.

It was an illuminating discussion and one that I will try and deconstruct over the next few posts.


  • Are you aware that FEMA refused to allow vendors, like Wal-Mart and such, to enter New Orleans in order to help provide supplies to Katrina victims? This was not only well-publicized, but I happen to have a neighbor who is a Katrina survivor (she had a home on Lake Pontchartrain). When supplies finally did start showing up, it took her 3 days just to get a gallon of water. Even local vendors were unhelpful, shutting most residents from access to food and supplies.

    Just a note: my neighbor is a wealthy white woman who had a car and left the city when the hurricane hit. She was not confronted with the horrors of the aftermath until 4-days afterward when she was finally allowed to return to her home to evaluate the damage done. To make matters worse, she was denied coverage by both FEMA and her insurance carrier because both said that the hurricane did not cause her home's damage - but instead blamed it on mold and water damage (even though her home was a lakefont home). On top of that, she was offered (and sadly accepted) only $45,000 by a greedy land-grabbing developer who was the only one willing to help pay for anything.

    Get informed before you praise the guys who destroyed New Orleans.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Apr 10, 04:19:00 PM EDT  

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