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U.S.: On Emergency Preparedness - What Have We Learned After Harvey and Irma?
Source: www.govtech.com
Source Date: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Focus: Citizen Engagement
Country: United States
Created: Sep 18, 2017

After two monster hurricanes hit the USA within a few weeks, what have we learned about preparing for, responding and recovering from major disasters? What are governments across America doing now, and what more can be done? 

As the power started coming back on for most homes in Florida and southern Georgia over the past week, the scale of the massive Hurricane Irma damage was estimated at over $100 billion by some estimates. And yet, about one million customers still did not have power almost a week after Irma made U.S. landfall.

No doubt, the path of Hurricane Irma could have been much worse, but the massive evacuation and flooding and loss of life were still significant.

As mentioned two weeks ago in a blog after Hurricane Harvey, the infrastructure recovery work in just beginning in numerous places. There are many heroes and countless heartwarming stories that will be told for generations, and we can certainly feel good that many lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina have been implemented prior to these 2017 storms. 

For example, the NY Times gave details of seven hard lessons that federal responders to Hurricane Harvey learned from Katrina. Here are four of those items (with more details under each in the referenced article):

- Responders have better plans and more training
- Federal and locals responders now work off the same playbook
- Emergency supplies were already in position
- It’s O.K. to enlist the help of the public

I also like the perspective offered by the Urban Institute regarding disaster policy. Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re learning about managing expectations at all scales and on all fronts, starting with how quickly recovery will happen after the storm. In Houston, Texas learned from repeated experiences over the last decade about how to disburse funds and maximize resources. The state government had experience after Katrina, Ike, and during the wildfires and floods of the past several seasons. They have better processes, and the federal government has gotten much more effective in assistance from relief through recovery.

But recovery takes time—especially if we want it.

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