Book Review – My Storm: Managing the Recovery of New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina – Edward J. Blakely (PAD 4382 – Disaster Recovery and Mitigation)

Disaster management

Book Review – My Storm: Managing the Recovery of New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina – Edward J. Blakely (PAD 4382 – Disaster Recovery and Mitigation)


 Disaster refers to an event that occurs suddenly and can be calamity since it seriously disrupts the society or community functions. It causes various losses that can lead to the affected societies not being able to cope with the remaining resources. The cases of disasters have been rising rapidly over the years; this has led to increased costs that are meant to reduce cases of disaster. This way, there have been measures of which have been formulated from time to time that can be used to eliminate long term risks that can be exposed to property and people (Coppola, 2006, p.6). There have been various programs that also been created in order to fight various risks which can be as a result of disasters. It is not possible to reduce cases of disaster completely hence the need to be prepared for purposes of trying to reduce the impact the disasters can have. Therefore, this essay will focus on various elements of disaster by analyzing various objectives.

A conceptual framework of disaster recovery

Disasters have had an adverse effect on human beings since our existence. As a result, there has been the need to decrease the exposure of human beings to the effects of disaster. This has been achieved by coming up with measures meant to address the initial impact together with the post disaster impact (Coppola, 2006, p.1). There are various concepts that set into place to in order to reduce harm of life, the environment and property among others. Nevertheless, there is no uniformity in terms of the capability of accomplishing this mission. This can be due to some factors such as economic, political and cultural among others. However, it is worth to note that there is no country despite its influence or wealth that is fully advanced such that it is immune from the negative effects of disasters.

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New Orleans is one of the cities in the United States that has suffered Katrina such that it lost both population and luster to nearby Houston and Birmingham. Also, the Mississippi river has its banks overflowing most of the times such that it almost ruined the city in 1927. The floodwaters from Mississippi have affected the city to a large extent and hurricanes have also been a daunting thing for the city (Blakely, 2012, p.4).  In the 1960s, the political leaders were victims of economic woes such that they did not have proper systems that were put into place to fight disaster or disaster recovery. There was a lot of political sagas and that led to mismanagement of which even resulted to building of homes as well as commercial structures on marshland. The locals wanted a protection system that was cheap although they received systems which were badly built. During the 1960s, there were expansions of constructions into swamps in the east of the city that were environmentally dangerous. This was opposed to the case of Miami which was learning how the city could be endangered by sprawling into sensitive marshland. New Orleans has also been a victim of bad urban development whereby land use is politicized. New Orleans sold also the building permits. Even after facing Katrina in 2005, they still did not have the master land use and zoning plan that is updated or even a professional planning department that is well staffed and funded.

Legislation governing available recovery assistance

There are various aspects that the government can put into place after the occurrence of a disaster. For instance, they can ensure that the public have applied construction that is hazard resistant through creation of building codes that aid in the constructions processes and a legislation should passed that ensures the codes are followed. Another element that can be used in protection people and structures is through relocation. The structures as well as homes can either be transported intact or disassembled. One of the main disasters that can lead in relocation of structures is flooding (Coppola, 2006, p.233). There are disasters that can lead to relocation such as tsunami risks, unstable slopes and coastal erosion among others. There can also be structural modification as a way of giving recovery assistance. Most of the structures are not as resilient as they are thought to be and so when rebuilding the damaged structures, action may be taken to aid in risk minimization. Additionally, structures can be demolished and rebuilt as a way of accommodating new risks. Therefore, the people are able to be protected as well as the environment in general. Detection systems can also be put into place in order to aid in recognizing the hazard that otherwise humans would not be able to percept. There are various applications that can be used for technological, natural and intentional hazards. When research and development receives more funding, there is an ability to warn of the effects of hazards as well as prevention of disasters.

The main challenge that New Orleans encountered was the issue of politics and money. Therefore, their recovery process or the aspect of recovery assistance was based on who controlled the money based on whether one was rich or poor, black or white, city or state as well as downtown or neighborhoods. As a way of attaining the recovery assistance, some of the buildings had to be rebuilt while others had to be retained since rebuilding them would be expensive especially for the best buildings.

Infrastructure assistance post disaster

According to various theories and research, a strong correlation does exist between poverty and disasters. Some of the developing countries for instance which are subjected to disasters tend to have negative development rates and in some cases they are stagnant (Coppola, 2006, p.17). In the case of Honduras and Nicaragua, Hurricane Mitch had destroyed at least 70% of the infrastructure which resulted to them being blamed of reversed rates of development to the various countries in Central America for more than a decade. Various countries have also felt the same effect for instance in Southeast Asia which experienced tsunami in 2004 as well as earthquake events and in 2010 the Haiti earthquake. These countries can experience high financial setbacks as opposed to some of their counterparts who are industrialized whereby there is absorption of such impacts by robust economy.

After the disaster, some of the guidelines that are considered include making sure that infrastructure is built and reconstructed based on the national building codes and the policies of the country thus enhancing quality. There should be facilitation of responsibilities and roles when being in charge of community infrastructure in terms of reconstruction and rehabilitation.   In the case of New Orleans, Blakely (2012, p. 92) advocated that the recovery process helped the infrastructure economically as a way of positioning the economy in a global and national manner.

Recovery Policy and formulation and planning

            Politics and leadership play a crucial role in regards to disaster planning and responding both internationally as well as locally. In effective leadership can lead to failures post recovery. For instance the ineffective leadership in the case of Katrina in Gulf Coast led to the failure of post recovery of Katrina. The aspect of not having emergency management experience among the appointed political supporters led to failure. There is need for having a recovery plan post disaster which is inclusive of representatives from various departments in order to include various people in the planning process. Additionally, there should be more examples of methods which can be created to address the specific disasters and the consequences they bring forth. One of the main requirements for the recovery process would be the aspect of disaster preparedness and prevention (Coppola, 2006.p.9). This should be an integral element in regards to different levels such as international, multilateral, regional, national and bilateral among others. The elements of disaster preparedness and prevention are essential in the reduction of the need for disaster relief. In the case of preventive measures, they tend to be more effective when they involve participation at all levels which include the local community, international and regional levels. There can be reduction of vulnerability by applying proper patterns and designs of development that focus on target groups through appropriate training and education of the entire community.

In the case of New Orleans some of the aspects that guided the recovery policy were provision of public safety and security to all the neighbors (Blakely, 2012, p.29). In this regard, the issue is that crime being something which is experienced countrywide, the stopping and prevention of crime act as elements which are critical to the recovery processes. Therefore, the city needed cameras that would focus on issues of crime, policing strategies for the community and neighborhood which aid in engaging young people in pursuits of social and recreational activities. Additionally, as a way of combating crimes as well as have a social economy that is healthy, there is need for establishment of new jobs in areas dealing with advanced transportation, biomedicine and media among other areas to enhance the future of New Orleans. There is need for installation of infrastructure the twenty and twenty second century since New Orleans seems to have underinvested in primary infrastructure such as water and sewers which is the case in most American cities. Developing sustainable settlement patterns is essential. This is achieved through ensuring there is economic development through the act of educating or retaining young professionals as opposed to chasing factories.

Factors Affecting Long term Recovery and Reconstruction

One of the main factors that have an effect in long term recovery would be aspect of being resilient. This is based on how the society is prepared to deal with types of disaster and the ability it has to recover successful and quickly. It entails the way the community or society accommodates, absorbs and recovers from the effects of disaster in an efficient and timely manner. Another factor that tends an effect on the long term recovery would be the issue of recovery. This a process which is complex and it starts after disaster. It can be hard to return to the normal state that the community was before the disaster. However, it could mean that there are factors being considered to bring the situation of post disaster to a level that could be accepted (Coppola, 2006, p. 50). There are variations of disaster impacts among different communities or societies as a result of the preexisting vulnerability or variation of the social units.

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The cohesiveness of a city is one of the crucial elements that aid cities to be resilient in cases of disaster. In this case, there is creation of a vision and being restored from collective trauma (Blakely, 2012, p.101). Most organizations which are strong before or even after disaster are vital elements that aid in making the recovery faster. Civic organizations aid in bringing cities new strengths that they can use to focus on their future even in cases of disaster. Despite New Orleans having various organizations none of the organizations act as the central resource used in carrying out civic visions. The city has different kinds of people whereby every person tend to have their own version of truth and in most cases they do not see or respect other versions from other people since they tend to look in one direction (Blakely, 2012, 102). One of the city fractured associations in New Orleans is the influential Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) which acts as the watchdog of the local government. It interviews senior staff based on issues that it feels are being handled inadequately dealt with by the city council.  Blakely’s staff tried to correct the misapprehensions of BGR although it was hard to deal such people whose minds were made up or who did not have an idea about the works of the government. Elements of race are associated with the BGR and it was assumed that its existence is based on bringing down the black city government. Blakely (2012, p. 102) viewed BGR as a criticizer since it did not use the opportunity it had to be a healer which is an essential aspect for a situation of post disaster.

Non FEMA sponsored recovery assistance program

There are some agencies that help in providing councils voluntarily in a way that aids in improving the activities that people undertake hence enhancing the natural, economic and social resources. Sustainable development aids in enhancing the aspect of resilience in the case of disaster recovery. Non profit making organizations tend to aid the low income earners with funds post disasters. This can be achieved through the reconstruction or repair of the housing that is damaged. The building and repair of houses could also receive federal funding which is essential in incorporating various measures of risk reduction (Coppola, 2006, p.22). There are programs which help in watershed recovery as well as conserving natural resources after cases of disaster such as the emergency watershed protection program. Other agencies such as national resource network aids cities which are distressed to find solutions and apply them thus helping them to recover and grow economically. There are various core services that are offered by the network such as access to new ideas and peer networks, support for solution implementation and on-demand online access to expertise.

 In New Orleans, there were various ways of reviving people in addition to FEMA. In some neighborhoods, there were people who had the determination of making their communities stronger than they were before the disaster. For instance the residents of Lakeview and Broadmoor had characteristics that they used to survive and they did a lot by themselves and asked for little. However, they received a lot of critics from others since they were viewed as acting as though they were city government. The communities received favored treatment only when they paid city officials to help them due to many years of corruption (Blakely, 2012, p.107). There are some places that were helped by church groups such as the Ninth Ward. In their case, Blakely observed that the more assistance they got from the volunteers, they would tend to expect both from the city and the volunteers. FEMA provided little help in terms of repairing the fire and police stations in the neighborhood.  Blakely was accompanied by nonprofit providers as well as the church in trying to open various new facilities for the seniors as well as rebuild some. Nevertheless, most people who had low incomes depended highly on the government transfers and supports which made it hard for them to take new mortgages.

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Federal mitigation assistance program

FEMA is one of the most popular organizations that eliminate risks which are long term to property and people who have been affected by disasters from being affected in future. FEMA offers funding to establish mitigation measures that are used in disaster reduction. Additionally, it aids in reduction of vulnerability of communities to the disasters and the effects they have on them (Coppola, 2006, 175). FEMA aids in promoting the safety among individuals and community as well as their ability in adapting the conditions which are changing together with having to withstand and have a rapid recovery from disruptions caused by emergencies. Moreover, there is a promotion of community vitality after cases of disaster as well as lessening of response and recovery requirement resources after an occurrence of the disaster.

In regards to New Orleans, FEMA seemed to be ineffective in their duties since they offered little effort.  Blakely (2012, p. 108) had to push for independent assessment regarding their FEMA claims and did not receive any form assistance from any individual in the White House. This even led to being able to get better results that would go directly to HUD, FEMA and EPA either Blakely only or with parish delegates to get funds that would help in housing and neighborhoods. HUD funds were used to provide seniors with decent places they could live in.


Blakely, E. J. (2012). My storm: Managing the recovery of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Coppola, D. P. (2006). Introduction to international disaster management. Elsevier.

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