5 Lessons that Katrina Taught First Responders

Hunter Ingram, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. | August 31, 2015
While Wilmington, N.C., was no stranger to hurricanes before the storm, local emergency management officials learned a few lessons from how Louisiana and the nation responded to the emergency.

(TNS) — New Orleans may sit nearly 900 miles from Wilmington, N.C., but that didn’t stop the effects of Hurricane Katrina’s 2004 landfall from reverberating all the way to the Port City and surrounding region.

While Wilmington was no stranger to hurricanes before the devastating storm, local emergency management officials were able to learn a few lessons from how Louisiana and the nation responded to the emergency. Those lessons could save lives if such a storm ever heads for southeastern North Carolina.

Here are five of those lessons:

1. “For a long time, there was believed to be a correlation between the category of a hurricane and the storm surge,” said Warren Lee, New Hanover County Emergency Management director. “But since Katrina, there has been a push to separate the two. Trying to forecast storm surge for something of that magnitude is a challenge at best.” Major flooding in Katrina’s path was caused by storm surge exceeding 27 feet, far higher than anyone expected from a Category 3 storm.

2. Lee added that watching Katrina unfold from afar “reinforced our beliefs that you have to plan early and have a good rapport with the citizenship here.”
3. Tom Collins, emergency management director for Pender County, said Katrina taught his team the importance of being proactive and making sure information gets pushed out early, quickly and accurately via social media.

4. “Don’t be ashamed to ask for help,” Collins said, noting that handling a large storm cannot be done without some assistance. “You can’t do it by yourself. You have to pull people and resources in to manage the incident and provide logistical support.”

5. Randy Thompson, who worked with the Brunswick County emergency management at the time, said Katrina pushed his team to stock up on resources that could come in handy in a storm situation, including mass evacuation vehicles and satellite equipment to make sure communications could be maintained and.

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©2015 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

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