Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans ten years ago on August 29, 2005. Talk to anyone who lived in New Orleans or the surrounding areas about their experiences and the reaction is immediate and emotional. The same is true of the first responders who worked tirelessly to get the residents of New Orleans to safety after government leaders issued evacuation orders too late to be effective. It was a nightmare that so many are still trying to recover from.
Katrina caused $96-$125 billion in property damage, of which only $40-$66 billion were covered losses. The massive storm destroyed an estimated 300,000 homes, impacted oil production, Louisiana’s sugar cane crops and chemical plants, and decimated the tourism industry along the Gulf.
Ten years later, residents show their resiliency as they continue to rebuild the city and its infrastructure. Numerous lessons were learned from Katrina that have helped us to better prepare for future catastrophes. Some may seem obvious and others demonstrate just how much has changed in the past decade. These apply to families who need to plan how to stay safe and in communication with one another, as well as business owners who need to keep in touch with their employees, customers and vendors.
Be prepared. Have a catastrophe plan in place and trained manpower on the ground. Businesses should plan to work remotely in the direst of circumstances. It should also include an effective evacuation plan for the residents of the threatened community, as well as adequate food, water and medical supplies.
Have a Plan C for communications. After the storm hit, all communication was lost for two weeks. Telephone carriers had promised that phone and computer lines would be rerouted to another location if a storm should directly strike the New Orleans area. Unfortunately, the calls had to go through switches in New Orleans, which were under water. They lost all communications for two weeks. So….
Keep up with technology. It’s important to stay current and trained with technology. For example, cloud technology did not exist at the time.
Plan to work remotely. A large catastrophe can impact the power grid, communications and internet access for an entire area. When a company’s home office is impacted, you must be able to operate from a satellite office for up to 120 days or as long as required. When Katrina struck, the entire power grid of Mississippi and most of Louisiana were directly affected.
Work smart and safe. Adjusters, restoration firms, utility workers and other early responders are frequently in areas with curfews, looters and police departments whose resources are severely strained. It is best to operate in teams and to avoid crowds of people where a gang mentality is obvious.
Hurricane Katrina was so strong and powerful, that even the best of planning could not have prevented all of the damage incurred. What needs to be focused on is keeping residents safe and healthy, getting the businesses they rely up and running and making the extremely difficult job of rescue workers and first responders safe and well planned out.
We have no control over what Mother Nature sends our way, but with the right planning in place, we can safe lives and help businesses to get back up and running.