Failure in Government Response

The government serves to protect the safety of its citizens and during natural disasters, this role becomes more important as federal organizations should always be prepared to provide resources and evacuate citizens to safer locations. However, the floods that occurred in both regions exposed a discrepancy in the amount of assistance needed versus the amount of support provided. Such response strategies challenged the effectiveness of the government and federal organizations in being capable of providing relief. In order to better prepare for the future, it is important to understand how the government failed to provide sufficient funds and allocating resources in a timely fashion.

In the United States, the agency responsible for facilitating relief efforts, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was widely criticized for its slow response and the weaknesses in its response strategies. To exemplify, the Department of Homeland Security published a report a year after the disaster and has listed over 38 recommendations in order make FEMA more efficient at providing assistance in the future. One of the major arguments in the report is that FEMA was inefficient at allocating resources and providing housing. For example, “during the first 30 days after the disaster, all four ships [deployed] were only about 35 percent occupied. At that occupancy rate, the cost to FEMA was approximately $3,363 per week, per evacuee, which was about three times higher than the existing per diem rate for federal government workers for the area.”[14] This is merely one example of how the federal organization failed to finance their operations effectively. In order to make up for the organizations’ shortcomings, a number of non-profit organizations became involved in the relief efforts as well. A report published at West Virginia University, concluded that private relief efforts were more effective at providing citizens with resources. “Private sector suppliers of disaster relief essentials, such as Wal-Mart, were able to quickly bring necessities like water to bear on the plight of Katrina victims who had been hit the hardest. As one hurricane victim put it, Wal-Mart ‘was the only place we could find water in those first days… I still haven’t managed to get through to FEMA.’ ” [17] Such examples further demonstrate how relief efforts were more successful through organizations beyond federal establishments.[16]

Similarly, in Chennai a number of citizens reported that the government was not nearly as useful in helping cope with the difficulties that result from flooding. A family member who was in the district of West Mambalam during the water crisis reported that government officials were nowhere to be seen in the first two days of the floods. Most of her neighbors were frustrated by the fact that the government did not issue any alerts in order to prepare the citizens for the event.[10] Not only does this highlight the importance of the government to provide relief promptly, but also the disconnect that citizens felt from the government in a time of need. Even the funds supporting the restoration effort and disaster relief were in sufficient to fulfill the needs of the population. Over 30 celebrities helped bridge this gap in funding through their various contributions.[11] Their efforts have helped organizations such as the Red Cross efficiently distribute basic necessities to various parts of the population that the Indian government failed to reach.