Improving America's Disaster Response

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it’s important to note how far our nation has come in improving our ability to respond to and recover from disasters and the progress we’ve made in helping our Gulf Coast recover from one of the worst natural disasters in our country’s history. 

Since taking office, the Obama administration has made Gulf Coast rebuilding a top priority. Over the past 20 months, we’ve obligated more than $2.5 billion in funding for new schools and universities, fire houses, police stations, and critical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, hospitals, and public health assets across the Gulf.

Earlier this week, we announced an additional $25 million in newly approved funding for rebuilding projects in Louisiana and Mississippi, the latest in a series of Gulf Coast recovery projects.  These resources are helping revitalize communities, cut through red tape, and get long-delayed construction projects off the ground.

We’ve also made tremendous progress since Katrina and Rita in improving our country’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from major disasters of all kinds.

An example of this progress is the recovery efforts this summer following the worst flooding in over a century in Nashville, Tenn. These floods took the lives of more than 30 individuals, devastated communities, and  threatened the safety and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of residents. Despite this historic damage, our swift and effective response demonstrated what a difference preparation, coordination between federal, state, and local governments, and the quick deployment of resources to local communities can make.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, played a key role in the government’s response.  But as our FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate would be the first to say, preparing for – and responding to – disasters truly is a shared responsibility.  While we continue to strengthen and streamline efforts to prepare for disasters at the federal level, citizens, families, communities, faith organizations, and businesses all have an important role to play in our collective response to emergencies.

As we remember the tragic events along the Gulf Coast five years ago, please take a moment to visit ready.gov – learn how to prepare an emergency kit, develop a plan for reuniting with family members after a disaster, and ensure you have plans in place for caring for family and friends.  

As the residents of Nashville can attest, we’ve made tremendous progress since August 2005. Working together, we will continue building a stronger and more resilient nation than ever before.

Janet Napolitano is Secretary of Homeland Security

Read more from the Hurricane Katrina: 5 Years of Remembering & Rebuilding series.

JUMP TO: