Case 16 Hurricane Katrina: Assessment Answer

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Question :

CASE 1 6

Hurricane Katrina

As we have noted in the text, until approximately 1970 nearly all engineering codes of ethics held that the engineer's first duty is fidelity to his or her employer and clients. However, soon after 1970, most codes insisted that "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public." Whatever may have precipitated this change in the early 1970s, recent events—ranging from the collapse of Manhattan's Twin Towers on September 1 1, 2001, to the collapse of a major bridge in Minneapolis/St. Paul on August 1, 2007— make apparent the vital importance of this principle. The devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf of Mexico coastline states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in late August 2005 is also a dramatic case in point.

Hardest hit was Louisiana, which endured the loss of more than 1,000 lives, thousands of homes, damage to residential and nonresidential property of more than $20 billion, and damage to public infrastructure estimated at nearly $7 billion. Most severely damaged was the city of New Orleans, much of which had to be evacuated and which suffered the loss of more than 100,000 jobs. The city is still reeling, apparently having permanently lost much of its population and only slowly recovering previously habitable areas.

At the request of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), the ASCE formed the Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel to review the comprehensive work of USACE's Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force. The resulting ASCE report, The New Orleans Hurricane Protection System: What Went Wrong and Why, is a detailed and eloquent statement of the ethical responsibilities of engineers to protect public safety, health, and welfare.43

The ASCE report documents engineering failures, organizational and policy failures, and lessons learned for the future. Chapter 7 of the report ("Direct Causes of the Catastrophe") begins as follows:44

What is unique about the devastation that befell the New Orleans area from Hurricane Katrina—compared to other natural disasters—is that much of the destruction was the result of engineering and engineeringrelated policy failures.

From an engineering standpoint, the panel asserts, there was an underestimation of soil strength that rendered the levees more vulnerable than they should have been, a failure to satisfy standard factors of safety in the original designs of the levees and pumps, and a failure to determine and communicate clearly to the public the level of hurricane risk to which the city and its residents were exposed. The panel concludes,45

With the benefit of hindsight, we now see that questionable engineering decisions and management choices, and inadequate interfaces within and between organizations, all contributed to the problem.

This might suggest that blame-responsibility is in order. However, the panel chose not to pursue this line, pointing out instead the difficulty of assigning blame:46

No one person or decision is to blame. The engineering failures were complex, and involved numerous decisions by many people within many organizations over a long period of time.

Rather than attempt to assign blame, the panel used the hindsight it acquired to make recommendations about the future. The report identifies a set of critical actions the panel regards as necessary. These

actions fall under one of four needed shifts in thought and approach:47

  • Improve the understanding of risk and firmly commit to safety.
  • Repair the hurricane protection system.
  • Reorganize the management of the hurricane protection system.
  • Insist on engineering quality.

The first recommended action is that safety be kept at the forefront of public priorities, preparing for the possibility of future hurricanes rather than allowing experts and citizens alike to fall into a complacency that can come from the relative unlikelihood of a repeat performance in the near future.

The second and third recommendations concern making clear and quantifiable risk estimates and communicating them to the public in ways that enable nonexperts to have a real voice in determining the acceptability or unacceptability of those risks.

The next set of recommendations concern replacing the haphazard, uncoordinated hurricane protection "system" with a truly organized, coherent system. This, the panel believes, calls for "good leadership, management, and someone in charge. It is the panel's recommendation that a high-level licensed engineer, or a panel of highly qualified, licensed engineers, be appointed with full authority to oversee the system..49

The authority's overarching responsibility will be to keep hurricane-related safety at the forefront of public priorities. The authority will provide leadership, strategic vision, definition of roles and responsibilities, formalized avenues of communication, prioritization of funding, and coordination of critical construction, maintenance, and operations.

The panel's seventh recommendation is to improve interagency coordination. The historical record thus far, the panel maintains, is disorganization and poor mechanisms for interagency communication:50

Those responsible for maintenance of the hurricane protection system must collaborate with system designers and constructors to upgrade their inspection, repair, and operations to ensure that the system is hurricane-ready and flood-ready.

Recommendations 8 and 9 relate to the upgrading and review of design procedures. The panel points out that ''ASCE has a long-standing policy that recommends independent external peer review of public works projects where performance is critical to public safety, health, and welfare. This is especially so where reliability under emergency conditions is critical, as it clearly was when Hurricane Katrina struck. The effective operation of such an external review process, the panel concludes, could have resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of (but by no means all) destruction in the case of Hurricane Katrina.

The panel's final recommendation is essentially a reminder of our limitations and a consequent ethical imperative to ' 'place safety first„ .52

Although the conditions leading up to the New Orleans catastrophe are unique, the fundamental constraints placed on engineers for any project are not. Every project has funding and/or schedule limitations. Every project must integrate into the natural and manmade environment. Every major project has political ramifications.

In the face of pressure to save money or to make up time, engineers must remain strong and hold true to the requirements of the profession's canon of ethics, never compromising the safety of the public.

The panel concludes with an appeal to a broader application of the first Fundamental Canon of ASCE's Code of Ethics. Not only must the commitment to protect public safety, health, and welfare be the guiding principle for New Orleans' hurricane protection system but also ' 'it must be applied with equal rigor to every aspect of an engineer's work—in New Orleans, in America, and throughout the world.

Reading the panel's report in its entirety would be a valuable exercise in thinking through what ASCE's first Fundamental Canon requires not only regarding the Hurricane Katrina disaster but also regarding other basic responsibilities to the public that are inherent in engineering practice.

A related reading is "Leadership, Service Learning, and Executive Management in Engineering: The Rowan University Hurricane Katrina Recovery Team," by a team of engineering students and faculty advisors at Rowan University. 54 In their abstract, the authors identify three objectives for the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Team Project:

The main objective is to help distressed communities in the Gulf Coast Region. Second, this project seeks to


not only address broader social issues but also leave a tangible contribution or impact in the area while asking the following questions: What do we as professional engineers have as a responsibility to the communities we serve, and what do we leave in the community to make it a better, more equitable place to live? The last objective is the management team's successful assessment of the experience, including several logistical challenges. To this end, this article seeks to help other student-led projects by relaying our service learning experience in a coherent, user-friendly manner that serves as a model experience.


Supportive corporate responses to the Katrina hurricane were swift. By mid-September 2005, more than $312 million worth of aid had been donated by major corporations, much of it by those with no plants or businesses in the afflicted areas.55 Engineers have played a prominent role in these relief efforts, as they did after the 9/1 1 Twin Towers attack and the Asian tsunami disaster. Hafner and Deutsch comment,56

With two disasters behind them, some companies are applying lessons they have learned to their hurricane-related philanthropy. GE is a case in point. During the tsunami, the company put together a team of 50 project engineers—experts in portable water purification, energy, health care, and medical equipment.

After Hurricane Katrina, GE executives took their cues from Jeffrey R. Immelt, GE's chief executive, and reactivated the same tsunami team for New Orleans. "Jeff told us, 'Don't let anything stand in the way of getting aid where it's needed,"' said Robert Corcoran, vice president for corporate citizenship.

Discuss how, with corporate backing, engineers who subscribe to Fred Cuny's ideas about effective disaster relief in his Disasters and Development (Oxford University Press, 1983) might approach the engineering challenges of Katrina.

  1. ASCE Hurricane Katrina External Revies.v Panel,

The Orleans Hurricane Protection Systenz: VV7yat Went IVrong and VV7yy (Reston, VA: Armerican Society for Civil Engineers, 2007). Available at http:///"

  1. I bid. , P. 47.
  2. I bid. , P. 61.
  3. 1 bid.
  4. I bid. , p.73.
  5. I bid. P • 79 _
  6. I bid.
  7. I bid.
  8. Ibid., P. 81.
  9. I bid. , P. 82.
  10. Ibid., P. 82.
  11. Jacqueline Finger, Joseph Lopez, 111, Christopher Bar-allus, Matthesv Parisi, Fred Rohs, John Schrmalzel, Armrinder Kaur, DeN10nd S. NIiller, and Kin•berly Rose, "Leadership, Service Learning, and Executive Managerment in Engineering: The Ros.van University Hurricane Katrina Recov— ery Tean•," International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, 2, no. 2, Fall 2007.
  12. Katie Hafner and Claudia H. Deutsch, ' 'YVhen Good sVi11 Is Also Good Business," York Tinzes, Septenl ber 14, 2005 (http.•//// n y ti 1m es. corm ) .
  13. I bid.
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Answer :

Hurricane Katrina

1. Introduction 

Hurricane Katrina is one of the biggest disasters that covered three states that are approximately 90,000 squares miles (Labib, & Read, 2015). In the state of Louisiana, the disaster was almost 1.7 people affected due to the storm. The purpose of the paper is to provide an effective view of the hurricane and discuss the various impacts on health and environment that are being faced by the people due to Hurricane Katrina. The paper also discussion regarding the various challenges faced by the communities for dealing with the situation and maintaining the disaster.

2. Overview of Hurricane Katrina

The Hurricane Katrina is considered to be extremely destructive as well as deadly Category 5 hurricane which effectively made the landfall on Florida as well as Louisiana. The storm originated over the Bahamas in the year 2005 from the merger of the topical wave as well as the remnants of the Tropical depression ten (Lewis et al., 2017). The highest wind during the hurricane is calculated to be 175 mph which cause the fatalities more than 1200 lives and the total damage for the disaster is amount to be 125 billion dollars (Labib, & Read, 2015). In this disaster, the most severe damage was faced by the city of New Orleans.

3. Cause of Hurricane Katrina 

The causes of Hurricane Katrina are;

  • The temperature of the ocean rise to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (Labib, & Read, 2015)
  • The area of low pressure formed and the spinning wheel of thunderstorm collect the strength
  • The wind hit 39 mph, and Hurricane Katrina was born (Lewis et al., 2017)
  • The speed and strength got stronger with the high temperature and low pressure

4. Impact of the Hurricane Katrina

4.1 Health consequence of the disaster 

The impacts of the disaster on the health of the people are as follows;

  • Loss of lives more than 1200 and major injuries (Gallagher, & Hartley, 2017)
  • Depression, grief, and anxiety along with the people
  • Due to flood, all the bacteria came from open water (Burton, 2015)
  • The medical centre was also destroyed

4.2 Environmental impact of the disaster

The environmental impacts are;

  • The storm cause erosion as well as the flood in the area
  • It destroyed natural properties and created huge damage to the environment by spreading bacteria and another disease (Osofsky et al., 2015)
  • Lead to various health issue and also damage to various natural resources

5. An ethical problem associated with the disaster 

The ethical problems in case of the hurricane Katrina are as follows;

  • The changing climate and the disaster created by the human
  • The hurricane was created due to huge climatic change and the low pressure which is one of the major cause of pollution created by a human (Fussell, 2015)
  • Lack of proper planning to deal with the situation
  • Lack of the previous announcement regarding the disaster to save the lives
  • The rise in ecological misbalance is one of the major issues that is associated with the disaster

6. Ethical lesson and recommendation 

The recommendations for the ethical concern are as follows;

  • Proper planning is highly essential to deal with this situation in the future
  • It is essential to lower the ozone gas formation and pollution within the world
  • Needs to developed advanced technology to deal with the situation

7. Challenges faced by the community

The challenges faced by the community due to Hurricane Katrina are;

  • The air quality of the area become polluted
  • The workers' safety during the rebuilding of the area was the biggest challenge
  • Providing safe food to the people
  • Performing a wastewater system in the area

8. Conclusion 

The paper eventually concludes the fact that Hurricane Katrina has created a huge disturbance within the area that leads to numerous death and major injuries. Due to the disaster, there are a loss of natural properties and also the ecology balance which lead to various health issues like anxiety and fear.