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08/09 - Hurricane! Lessons Learned: A Special Edition

What did hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav teach us about coping with catastrophe?

LPB partnered with Mississippi Public Broadcasting for an in-depth look at how procedures, policies and planning for hurricanes have changed in the last four years. In that time, three of the ten costliest hurricanes on record — Katrina, Rita and Gustav — struck Louisiana. Katrina made a second landfall in Mississippi, leaving behind unprecedented havoc and a harsh education in the discipline of disaster. What did these events teach us about coping with catastrophe?


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Lessons Learned: Personal Views

2005 produced two mega-disasters: hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Between them, well over a million lives were disrupted. Hundreds of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. More than 1,800 deaths reported. Great disasters produce great suffering and loss. They also produce heroes and heroic deeds: the much-praised Coast Guard flyers who lifted tens of thousands of victims from New Orleans rooftops; Louisiana Fisheries and Wildlife personnel who ferried water-soaked residents from flooded areas to high ground; faith-based organizations and other non-governmental groups that pitched in with hot meals, shelter and kindness. Among the thousands of stories of first responders, here are three that relate some of the many lessons learned from the storms of 2005. They each capture a tiny sliver of a many-faceted narrative, one that will remain with us long after the last signs of disaster disappear from Louisiana and Mississippi. (Video clips included in the player above.)

Jason Ard, Chief Criminal Deputy, Livingston Parish

"Although you may think this facility holds up, you get in there and the air conditioner breaks; the bathrooms aren’t equipped for you to have anywhere from 200 to 600 people live there, because they’re not leaving." ~ Jason Ard

Lawrence Callender, Assistant Chief of Police, French Settlement
(During Katrina, Callender was Deputy Director of Special Ops, Livingston Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preardness)

"We need to be constantly vigilant of the lessons that we documented that we should learn. We need to review that lesson plan. We don’t need to put it on the shelf to gather dust." ~ Lawrence Callender

Ronnie Cotton, Director, Livingston Parish 911 Call Center

"I worry about the folks who cannot take care of themselves, and rely totally on someone else getting them to where ever they need to go." ~ Ronnie Cotton

Parish-level Plans

According to the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness website, sixty-three of the state’s sixty-four parishes have offices of emergency preparedness. These offices ( are authorized to direct and control the resources of their respective parishes in the event of natural or man-made disasters.

The degree of transparency and availability of parish plans varies widely, according to the Disaster Accountability Project ( only three south Louisiana parishes -- East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge and Lafourche -- have posted public versions of their plans on the web. The East Baton Rouge plan is available here:

JoAnne Moreau, Director, East Baton Rouge Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness.

"Although you may think this facility holds up, you get in there and the air conditioner breaks; the bathrooms aren’t equipped for you to have anywhere from 200 to 600 people live there, because they’re not leaving." ~ JoAnne Moreau

Click Here For More Katrina Details!

This program was also funded in part by the Louisiana Forestry Association

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