As we were finishing this issue of Security Management, New Orleans was observing a tragic anniversary. Ten years ago, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States from central Florida to Texas, directing most of its fury on New Orleans. The storm flooded 80 percent of the city and killed 1,800 people. It is fitting, then, that the topic of this month’s “60 Years—60 Milestones” is the development of crisis management and resilience as critical components of security.
Though the concept took on urgency following the terrorist attacks on 9-11, natural disasters have eclipsed man-made ones in recent years, leading governments to focus on storm, earthquake, wildfire, and pandemic preparedness.
According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the World Health Organization (WHO), from January to October 2005 alone, approximately 97,490 people died in global disasters; 88,117 of those were from natural disasters. This particularly deadly period led the WHO to conclude that disasters “stem from a complex mix of factors including routine climate change, global warming influenced by human behavior, socioeconomic factors causing poorer people to live in risky areas, and inadequate disaster preparedness and education on the part of governments as well as the general population.”
The United Nations’ 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, released in March, finds that “economic losses from disasters are now reaching an average of US$250 billion to US$300 billion annually.”
Public awareness of security and emergency management has also increased. In August, the City of New Orleans released its resiliency plan, which establishes the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability. That office will be charged with integrating “resilience-driven decision making across public agencies...to deliver the outreach and education components” that will drive community resilience. The plan also includes measures for ensuring recovery after a disaster.
This focus on preparedness extends far beyond New Orleans. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency plans for the “maximum of maximums,” which can be anything from an earthquake to a pandemic. In scenario training, officials plan for both the disaster and the aftermath—burying the dead, healing the wounded, responding to requests for aid, and mitigating the economic ramifications.
In the security realm, public-private partnerships and the cooperation they foster are critical to disaster recovery. In this issue, John M. Hewitt, CPP, discusses how officials in Dallas were caught off guard when a freak tornado hit the city’s downtown in 2004. In 2014, another tornado hit, a clear indication that such events are no longer rare. However, in the interim, resilience had become part of the city’s vocabulary. This time, security was ready. But will we be ready next time?