The Government and Hurricane Katrina – Ethical Dilemmas

Hurricane Katrina took place on August 23rd, 2015, and lasted until August 31st, 2005. A total of 1,836 people, died from this natural disaster and over 600,000 families were displaced. Many say, these deaths could have been prevented should the government had taken effective and preventative measures. As a result, ethical dilemmas from people and organizations all over the world, have come about. Some people argue that the government was negligent, others argue that it was an act of God that could have not possibly been prevented. Regardless of who is right, the truth is that Katrina took many lives. Below, is my take on this perspective from a political and ethical standpoint.


While hurricane Katrina affected thousands of people, homes, families, structures, etc., the aftermath allowed for other countries to learn from empirical observation. Hurricane Katrina, served as a wake-up call for many governments, and for families themselves.


There are no two situations that are identical to each other, even if there were to be a “replica” of an event that already took place. Furthermore, unforeseen circumstances will always take place and people will react differently to them. Variations from one disaster to another, are always present. While the government of Louisiana and its habitants learned valuable lessons, learning is a work in progress which does not cease.


I strongly doubt that ethical dilemmas could be completely eliminated, regardless of how well prepared a state is for emergencies. Furthermore, while some of these dilemmas could be minimized by prompt and effective warning; there will always be issues that arise as a result of cultural diversity and planning. There is no one single ethical approach, that is able to alleviate the ethical dilemma of thousands of people at once. While some approaches may be better than others (Human Rights), understanding that people have different needs and beliefs, is key to pre and post planning.


Better post-hurricane emergency planning, could potentially alleviate some of the ethical differences and dilemmas that arise during an emergency situation. There are certain factors that must be considered when planning for disaster management.


  1. Become familiar with the different cultural groups in the community (cultural composition).
  2. Identify the needs of each culture.
  3. Identify the values and beliefs of each culture.
  4. Identify the primary spoken language of each culture.
  5. Identify available resources (translators, phone lines, sign-language interpreters)
  6. Identify the cultural brokers in the community (someone who is respected and listened to in the community)
  7. Identify leaders and gatekeepers of each cultural group.
  8. Pre-establishing alliances with media (news paper, T.V. Stations, radio, etc.,)
  9. Prepare to deliver verbal and non-verbal emergency information, in each culture’s primary language.
  10. Identify the strengths and capacities of available volunteers (language, race, religion, etc.)


In my opinion the core of ethical dilemmas, comes as a result and combination of multiple factors. One factor that appeared to strongly impact the outcome and readiness of Hurricane Katrina however, appeared to be communication. Additionally, the lack of resources and proper training of staff and volunteers severely impacted the outcome.


Effective disaster planning and multicultural training, should be factors to consider year-round in an effort to better prepare for future catastrophes. More so, understanding that there is not one single universal approach that will work for all situations, is key to managing ethical dilemmas within.


While many people concentrate their efforts into pointing fingers, and criticizing the efforts of governmental agencies, many others are suffering the effects of the aftermath of events such as the one mentioned above. It is imperative to come together as a community, and reach out to those who are most in need. Furthermore, these negative approaches, have the potential of slowing down disaster recovery processes, and of taking the attention of away, of those who need it the most.


A small monetary contribution, or volunteer work, can go very far, and provide relief to some of these victims and/or their loved ones. If more effort were put into helping rather than critiquing, our world, would be a much better and happier place. Believe it or not, a small grain of rice, can truly make the difference for many.