Learning from Hurricane Katrina

by Anna
(The Special Life)

It's over 2 year now and the recovery and healing continues.

When Hurricane Katrina ripped into the southern US August 2005, it highlighted a number of deficiencies in disaster planning and recovery. The lack of speed and co-ordinated response of course became painfully obvious. Not only to those affected, but to the rest of the world that looked on in surprised shock and dismay.

While many are still doing their best to recover and re-instate their lives, there are others at the official level that are trying to learn from the mistakes made. One of the sad shortcomings in the whole mess was the lack of foresight for care of people with disabilities.

In a report released August 3rd by the National Council on Disabilities, they said:
"People with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the Hurricanes because their needs were often overlooked or completely disregarded. Their evacuation, shelter, and recovery experiences differed vastly from the experiences of people without disabilities. People with disabilities were often unable to evacuate because transportation was inaccessible. For example, most evacuation busses did not have wheelchair lifts. Moreover, people with visual and hearing disabilities were unable to obtain necessary information pertinent to their safety because said communication did not comply with federal law. "

What a sad state of affairs.

Reading this news bulletin reminded me of one of the most chilling scenes from the TV coverage of the hurricane aftermath in New Orleans. Over the several days of coverage, I remember that the TV cameras often focused on this one woman in a wheelchair. In the several days coverage we could watch her deteriorate before our eyes.

But the image that is burned into my memory is from the evacuation day that finally came - but the wheelchair and occupant were covered by a tarp.

That didn't need to happen.

One of the reasons I wanted to draw your attention to this particular news release is to encourage any reader to copy it and bring it to the attention of your local, regional and national governments, as well as the emergency response teams in your area.

Maybe we can all learn from the mistakes, and make our own environment a bit safer.

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