Differences in Response for Pentagon attack and Hurricane Katrina

Topic 2: Differences in Response for Pentagon attack and Hurricane Katrina

To what extent was the response structured differently for the Pentagon attack than for Hurricane Katrina? What factors contributed to this differing approach?

Respond Kindly to Student #1

Damon Bradshaw

Differences in Responses for Pentagon Attack and Hurricane Katrina

According to Jonkman et al. (2009), over 1,000 individuals died due to Hurricane Katrina that hit Louisiana in September 2005. Many of the fatalities occurred outside the flood-prone areas. Jonkman et al. (2009) note that most of the fatalities were caused by the effects of the floods on public health. These factors led to over 60% of the victims (Jonkman et al., 2009). Similar to historical flood events, the mortality rate was highest in areas with high water depth. On the other hand, Stewart (2017) pointed out that the 9/11 attack on Pentagon resulted in 184 fatalities who have been compensated up to $1.2 billion and repairs costing $500 million. Stewart (2017) note that the structural robustness of the Pentagon building contained most of the damages through its energy absorbing, redundancy, and continuity capacity.

Despite the preparations, there are significant differences between how the emergency response for the two catastrophes was conducted. Vanderford et al. (2007) indicated that emergency response to the New Orleans flooding was delayed, with no one helping Hurricane Katrina victims, compared to the response of firefighters immediately after the Pentagon was attacked. Further differences pointed out by Vanderford et al. (2007) include the funding distribution among the victim of Katrina was not equally distributed to the affected person. On the contrary, soon after the 9/11 attacks, organizations and charities raised more than $657 million, the majority of which went to the victims’ families and survivors. Vanderford et al. (2007) noted that Katrina victims were made to provide proof of identity to receive government aid, which was not evident after the 9/11 attacks.

Jonkman, S. N., Maaskant, B., Boyd, E., & Levitan, M. L. (2009). Loss of life caused by the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Analysis of the relationship between flood characteristics and mortality. Risk Analysis: An International Journal29(5), 676-698.

Stewart, M. G. (2017). Risk of progressive collapse of buildings from terrorist attacks: Are the benefits of protection worth the cost?. Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities31(2), 04016093.

Vanderford, M. L., Nastoff, T., Telfer, J. L., & Bonzo, S. E. (2007). Emergency communication challenges in response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Journal of Applied Communication Research35(1), 9-25.

Respond Kindly to Student #2

Roxanne Donaghy

According to some, Hurricane Katrina was the first time the Department of Homeland Security proved itself after the 9/11 attacks. However, unlike the Pentagon assault, Hurricane Katrina was caused by a natural catastrophe, making the two events wholly distinct. Both of these tragedies might have been prevented or handled better, yet the human toll was still tremendous. Even New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that a mandatory evacuation order issued earlier may have saved more lives. When the floods began in New Orleans, the reaction was slow. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, no one assisted the victims. Firefighters from the Pentagon rushed to the site only moments after the jet impacted. Where was the assistance when New Orleans was flooded? Who was there to save the drowning people? Hurricane Katrina relief funds should have been distributed more effectively if the government had a stronger plan in place. The money donated to help the victims was not distributed fairly. There should have been money for moving, burial financing (so the dead may be buried), training, and assistance with the victims’ medical and mental health requirements. The government’s Victims Compensation Fund said claimants would receive payouts averaging $1.6 million from the fund. Katrina victims had to deal with a lot more paperwork than Pentagon victims. In order to obtain government help, Katrina victims had to confirm their identities. When your whole existence has vanished in front of your eyes, how can you possibly prove your identity to government officials? Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans caused many people to lose their identity and social security cards. There is no way.

It is pitiful how we assist other countries and dispatch forces all over the globe but aiding our citizens to be a low priority. In reality, the government’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina proved that, since the Pentagon attacks, the emphasis of so-called anti-terrorist preparations had been the development and training of plans to declare martial law and military authority. As a result, when the magnitude of the hurricane’s damage became apparent, the federal government had no significant preparations to react effectively and instead relied on the one option prepared, the military option (WSWS, 2005). Response agencies immediately developed a unified command system to organize crucial duties at the Pentagon, including the Arlington Fire Department, the FBI, and others. These tasks included detecting, treating, and evacuating casualties, putting out the fire, discovering and preserving evidence, and stabilizing the structure. Unfortunately, there was no unified command system during Katrina. Why was the response for the Pentagon different for Katrina? At the time Katrina happened, the government was more concerned about terrorist attacks. Therefore, a natural disaster took second fiddle, and many lives were lost because of it.


Martin, P. (2005, September 12). Hurricane Katrina and the meaning of September 11. WSWS. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2005/09/911-s12.html

Topic 3: Advanced Preparation Steps

In the event that they could have been improved, what advanced preparation steps should have been taken by the local, state, and federal agencies prior to Hurricane Katrina? How could the response been better if these improvements were implemented?

Respond Kindly to Student #1

Roxanne Donaghy

With today’s devastating dangers, we lack an approach to dealing with them in our present homeland security system. While this is true, it is impossible to believe that even the most robust system could predict and overcome all problems in a disaster. As a response system, ours can handle a regular hurricane season, but the system has fundamental issues when it comes to dealing with disastrous catastrophes. For example, during the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, four fundamental deficiencies in our national readiness were exposed: unified administration of the national response; order and control systems within the Federal government; understanding of our preparedness plans; and regional planning and coordination. If Katrina taught us anything is the preparedness, coordination, and communication are essential. Coordination is one of the things that the local and state government could have improved during Katrina. Still, instead, it held up medicine urgently needed, and there was a duplication of things. I won’t get started on how the leadership could have been better because I could write a 200-page dissertation on the things Brown did wrong. 

A lack of communication and coordination between state and local officials was evident as soon as Katrina made landfall, but it wasn’t until after the storm had passed that they could begin to respond. Without prior planning or a functioning State/local incident command structure to guide their efforts, federal officials were forced to perform responsibilities traditionally handled by state and local authorities, such as the rescue of citizens stranded by rising floodwaters, the provision of law enforcement, and the evacuation of the remaining population of New Orleans (The White House, 2005).

Disaster aid organizations worked independently of each other. They each had their agendas, and none of them were reliant on the others. This resulted in overlapping efforts and missed opportunities. These organizations should have worked as one team, and everyone would have known what the other was doing. In addition, the government should have moved federal resources to Louisiana well before the hurricane arrived (There is always a lesson learned, as with everything bad, but it was too bad; it was at the cost of many lives.


The White House. (2005, September 15). Hurricane Katrina: Lessons learned. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned/chapter5.html

Respond Kindly to Student #2

Diego Salgado

Advanced Preparation Steps

Hurricane Katrina was a unique disaster that left many suitable lessons for emergency managers, first responders, and decision-makers to take into consideration for the next natural or man-made disaster. However, one of the most significant failures of Hurricane Katrina was the lack of information, communication, and guidance during the evacuation phase. U.S. House of Representatives (2006) explained that “Despite adequate warning 56 hours before landfall, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin delayed ordering a mandatory evacuation in New Orleans until 19 hours before landfall” (p. 2).

            Thus, by improving the guidelines for mandatory evacuation, leaders could have saved many lives. In addition, effective risk communication is the foundation of any state mitigation plan. It allows decision-makers to identify gaps in the mitigation planning process and create contingencies to minimize the impact of such threats. With that being said, local and state communication plans must be reviewed semi-annually to effectively-identified gaps and possible points of friction that could hinder their communication plans during a disaster.  

            Lastly, information sharing was also noted to be a reason for the lack of response. U.S. House of Representatives (2006) stated, “It does not appear the President received adequate advice and counsel from a senior disaster professional (p. 2). That was primarily because FEMA did not have a direct line of communication with the President, and critical information was lost in transit.                    


FEMA. (2004). Response. In Emergency and Risk Management Case Studies Textbook (Chapter 4). Retrieved from https://training.fema.gov/hiedu/aemrc/booksdownload/emoutline/

U.S. House of Representatives. (2006, February). A failure of initiative: Final report of the select bipartisan committee to investigate the preparation for and response to hurricane Katrina. Retrieved from https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1209/ML12093A081.pdfOne