Let us immediately put a myth to rest – New Orleans did not fare better against Gustav because certain politicians decided to take the day off or because Gov. Bobby Jindal decided to make a few press conferences. The Big Easy beat the storm through preparedness, education, strong community leaders and most importantly, a well-trained and educated emergency response network.
And it was not government agencies that led the way – it was the private companies – communication networks working with management systems that kept the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross. the Mississippi Department of Health and the Federal Aviation Administration in constant contact. So before we start pinning medals on politicians miles away, let’s at least thank the people behind the scenes running the show – both in the network operating centers and on the ground level.
Levees held due to critical shifts of emergency personnel on a dime. This first-responder workforce, which according to city officials consisted of both trained professionals and determined city residents who refused to flee, were armed with new technology. The capability of handheld communication devices (essential when standard land-based communications are hindered by severe weather) that were used in 2005 during Katrina were limited because of low bandwidth. Prior to Katrina, FEMA outsourced trucks and crews on an ad hoc basis but often encountered problems with having equipment in the right place at the right time. Where did the capital and technology come from this time? Canada and the U.K.