Sample Criminal Justice Research Paper on Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

In late August 2005, the southeastern United States was struck by a tropical cyclone commonly known as Hurricane Katrina. Together with its aftermath, the hurricane claimed more than 1800 lives. It was marked the most costly natural disaster in the history of the US. It presented itself as a tropical depression above the Bahamas 350 miles east of Miami. For two days, the weather gained strength causing a landfall between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  It surfaced on august 23 with winds travelling at 70 miles per hour. The storm lasted less than 8 hours on land and intensified quickly reaching the Gulf of Mexico. By august 27, the storm had strengthened to a category 3 hurricane becoming the most powerful hurricane I the records of Atlantic storms. On 29th, it graduated to a level 4 hurricane while it swept across the Mississippi and New Orleans.

The hurricane caused severe damage across the entire Mississippi with New Orleans registering the most severe loss of life and property. It cost the US $125 billion whereby half the damage in New Orleans was as a result of flooding. When calculated in addition with addition to economic impact, the true cost of the Katrina amounts to $250 billion (Hill &Jones, 2016). Insurance took care of $80 billion only. It rendered more than 300,000 homes inhabitable while in its wake leaving 118 million cubic yards of debris (Hill &Jones, 2016). A deduction from all this brings one to a conclusion that the aftermath proved to be as bad as the cyclone. As much as it led to loss of life and displacement of people, it also led to economic impacts such as damaging oil production. The death toll of this disaster was 1,836 (Hill & Jones, 2016). Among them, the biggest number were old age people whereby 71% consisted of people aged 60 and above.  The storm disastrous nature and the seriousness of its damage happened because it revealed mistakes in the levees of New Orleans causing an 80% flooding rate (Smith, 2012).

The police and fire departments of New Orleans proved to be ill prepared for the storm. The government too failed on this part because, long term warnings about the storms had been ignored leaving the affected areas less prepared for it. The fire department for example could not send fire fighters into the storm because the chief said he could not put his men at risk. This is because, they could not tell the magnitude of the disaster (Adam & Stewart, 2015). Many local and state safety agencies became victim to extensive damage in terms of facilities and equipment. Some faced total destruction forcing more than half stations in Louisiana and Slidell to close. The police department also lost a significant number of their vehicles thus making first response for these two departments challenging. Communications also faced complete destruction leaving responders without a reliable network to coordinate emergency responses operations (Hill, 2016). Police and fire dispatch centers fell victim by blockage because of flooding as state and local responders struggled to perform urgent response missions.

After receiving a declaration of emergency, present Bush appointed three representatives for each of the affected states to help with emergency response. In a unified response, different authorities come together to help in decision making then give their solutions to the authorities and any other body involved in the rescue. A unified front in terms of local and state emergency response helped in response during the calamity. The fire department, police force, coast guard, department of justice and many other public safety offices worked together to help the victims of the Katrina (Hill, 2016). The DOD provided air crafts and helicopter services to evacuate and provide the needed medical services in areas that could not be accessed by vehicles. The National Guardsmen used Humvees and amphibious vehicles to help the people in the Superdome which had been predicted to be safe but later succumbed to shortage of supplies and a rising water level that threatened their generators (Adams& Stewart, 2016). The Louisiana state police worked together with the National Guard in mobilizing personnel to deal with the disaster (Labib & Read, 2015). The Joint Forces headquarters of Louisiana National Guard also activated its operations center in New Orleans to aid in response operations. Jackson Barracks served as the operations center whereby the Mississippi National Guard with the help of military police activated 750 personnel to help. Response teams therefore gathered from the Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Orleans to provide a unified effort.

The objective of the crisis response was to reduce the amount of suffering and save lives. However, the responsibilities expanded to body recovery which was shoved to and from FEMA and the state departments. This resulted to delay in body recovery. The resources available for this mission were limited due to damages caused by the cyclone. The police and fire departments suffered damages that slowed down the progression of the objectives (Labib & Read, 2015). Even though the job was not done to satisfaction, other bodies like the coast guard came in to help with evacuation and lifesaving. Rescue resources proved to be a challenge also because of the vast flooding. Rescuers would not manage to reach victims at some places. Rows of desperately needed ambulances remained parked due to impassable roads making the achievement of these objectives a hard task. The rescuing effort therefore needed more advance resources which were not available thus making the rescue process tedious and less helpful.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) represents a government organization made responsible of taking care of the needs of Hurricane Katrina’s victims. It failed because of mismanaged bureaucratic interference and multifaceted leadership mistakes. During the incident, FEMA used the prescriptive model of decision making. It involves making decisions from the top of leadership towards employees without considering input from employees. Policies and processes to be used during the Katrina had already been put in place to activate government involvement (Powellson, 2017). Established in advance, this strategy rendered local governments ineffective because of the storm which made the initiation of standard protocols impossible. Instead, a contingency to accommodate unexpected changes in the landscape would have made a difference in the outcomes.

In conclusion, the impact of Hurricane Katrina remains big not because of human failures only but due to the vast magnitude of the disaster. Good management could help in modification of disasters but cannot help in their elimination. However, since Katrina occurred in the aftermath of 911, the government should have implemented new policies to deal with such a crisis. Lack of preparedness and poor decision making led to great damages in the wake of the Katrina yet they could have been avoided. The local and state agencies that joined hands to help the victims however did a commendable job especially with consideration of the fact that resources were limited. The government needs to make better plans when it comes to disastrous events like the Katrina.



Adams, T. M., & Stewart, L. D. (2015). Chaos theory and organizational crisis: A theoretical analysis of the challenges faced by the New Orleans Police Department during Hurricane Katrina. Public Organization Review15(3), 415-431.

Hill, C., Schilling, M., & Jones, G. (2016). Strategic Management: An Integrated Approach. Mason, OH: Cengage South-Western.

Labib, A., & Read, M. (2015). A hybrid model for learning from failures: the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Expert Systems with Applications42(21), 7869-7881.

Powelson, M. (2017). Hurricane Katrina and the Lessons of Disaster Relief. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Shrum, W. (2014). What caused the flood? Controversy and closure in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Social studies of science44(1), 3-33.

Smith, J. P. (2012). Hurricane Katrina: The Mississippi story.