About the Crisis Leadership Forum

To better understand the leadership dimensions of crisis situations, the Center for Creative Leadership convened a forum with formal and emergent leaders who played a role in Hurricane Katrina. We overlaid this conversation between crisis leaders with the perspectives of discussants with expertise in disaster, terrorism, public health, and leadership. This blog site is intended to continue this conversation.

To read the report on the Crisis Leadership Forum, please click here.

To read CCL's Leading Effectively newsletter on the Forum, please click here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lessons Learned: FEMA Response to Midwest Floods

Nearly three years after their highly criticized response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster FEMA is receiving positive feedback on their relief efforts for the victims of the Midwest Floods. Democratic senators in Missouri and Illinois are giving favorable reviews of FEMA’s early response to the crisis along with other government officials, disaster response personnel and citizens.

The highly-charged public criticism of FEMA during and after Katrina provided an impetus for FEMA leaders to scrutinize their response and apply lessons learned to future crises. A USA Today article indicates that FEMA has learned from Katrina. Glenn Cannon, FEMA assistant administrator for disaster operations states:

"The lessons we learned from Katrina we've taken very seriously. We've changed the way we do business. We don't wait to react."

As we heard at the Crisis Leadership Forum on Hurricane Katrina, there is a need for greater decentralization of relief efforts. This was articulated by Colonel Tom Kolditz at the Forum who stated “Disasters push the operational focus [down to the grassroots level]. It is the same in military operations—the faster the tempo and the higher the danger, the more decentralization is necessary.”

This shift occurred in FEMA’s response to the floods as noted by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill:

"I think they've made a world of improvement both in terms of their preparedness and in terms of their attitude. My sense is they are no longer thinking they can deliver disaster relief from a cubicle in Virginia and are fully engaged on the ground."

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