There are two things that should be established before one will be able to address the issues that have to be answered in the course of this paper. First, we should be able to understand the basic facts that surrounded Hurricane Katrina, specifically in the New Orleans area–its beginning, the events that occurred while it was on-going and its aftermath. Only then will we be able to grasp the essence and impact of such an unfortunate event and learn from it. Next, there would be the angle where the United States Red Cross came into play. Before we start in analyzing in depth all the details correlating them to each other, it is imperative that we first be able to determine the role of Red Cross as the event unfolded.
Hurricane Katrina “threatened the city of New Orleans on August 2005[, with] the eye of the huge storm graz[ing] the east side of the city, sparing it from the worst of its power. However, due to poorly designed levees and the worst civil engineering failure in [the] United States history, most of the city experienced flooding similar to a direct hit” (Hurricane Preparedness, n.d.). During and after the height of the event, blame has been pointed to all levels of the government in the United States, from the city mayor and governor to the president. This was because of the lack of preparedness which has been easily visible even then. The evacuation plans and all other strategies that would have helped save the city from the catastrophe were either ineffective or insufficient.
For the part of the U.S. Red Cross, “which has been the nation’s premier emergency response organization” (Red Cross Profile, n.d.), it automatically assumes responsibility to participate in a crisis such as this one. The only question that would be asked in this case is that, how well has Red Cross able to handle such responsibility considering that there was a seeming lack of preparedness on the part of all the tiers of the government and other sectors involved.
At this point that we have things on their proper perspectives, we are now ready to tackle, first, the area that has something to do with case management, the six core tasks and in what ways the American Red Cross was able to use it. The Case Management Society of America defines it as the “collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s health needs through communication and available resources, to promote quality cost effectiveness outcomes” (CSMA, 2008). Red Cross, in this case, showed effective enough actions that would qualify saying that it has applied Case Management in handling the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. However, it fell short in several areas, especially in the planning and facilitation brought about by lack or ineffective communication and experience, in order to maximize its full potential as a major player then (Ross, 2005). From this, we can see that had there been a better, and more experienced head of the organization, then the outcome can be significantly different. This being the case, it will be safe to say that the services rendered to the victims were not sufficiently met, and that here, Red Cross failed in some ways.
Now, for the ‘system perspective’ issue, we have several things to point out. “Systems thinking is a powerful approach for understanding the nature of why situations are the way they are, and how to go about improving results. It is not an easy approach for it requires a substantial investment of effort, and thought, though the results can be more than worth the investment (National Standards, 2008). Assured as we are that most of the steps concerning systems thinking was observed during the crisis, it appears that there had been the tendency be rigid about the rules and procedures, which resulted to a slower pace in the help extended and divided the focus from the crisis itself. This should not have been the case, because even if it is ideal to follow the necessary process–this should not be done at the expense of the effective response required to the crisis itself.
Thirdly, there is the issue of communication – or in this case, the lack of it. According to one news article, the federal government and the Red Cross was not allowed to take over the crisis management because the local officials did not allow them to (Roig-Franzia, 2005). The fault, therefore, lies with the local government, as their authority cannot be superseded by that of any other concerned organization. The external link was not maximized nor was it effectively utilized.
Lastly, and with all these point having been presented already, we should now be able to conclude. More importantly, the conclusion we should arrive at should be in one particular line of thought. It should be a conclusion which can help improve and handle better situations and crisis like Hurricane Katrina, and hopefully help more people alleviate the distress they are experiencing. That in mind, the only thing that the author would want to suggest is this: whatever agency or institution, government or otherwise, that is involved in the same field that the U.S. Red Cross is in–it should regularly remind itself of the reason it was in existence in the first place. Helping those in need and providing assistance to the people should be the one and only priority of each one, and none should distract it from that purpose; and neither should it suffer at the expense of any law or procedure. After all, human lives are not negotiable, and nor are their sufferings. That in mind, all other approaches, principles, and theories will likely to be more effective and better implemented.
Hurricane Preparedness for New Orleans (n.d.) Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_preparedness_for_New_Orleans
American Red Cross, About Us (n.d.) Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.d8aaecf214c576bf971e4cfe43181aa0/?vgnextoid=477859f392ce8110VgnVCM10000030f3870aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default
National Standards of Practice for Case Management, What is Case Management? (2008) Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from http://www.cmsa.org.au/definition.html
Ross, Brian. “FEMA Director Takes Heat for Katrina Response.” ABC News. September 5, 2005. Retrieved on May 29, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_government_response_to_Hurricane_Katrina#cite_note-FEMADirectorHeat-38
Roig-Franzia, Manuel; Hsu, Spencer. “Many Evacuated, but Thousands Still Waiting.” Washington Post. September 4, 2005. Retrieved on May 29, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_government_response_to_Hurricane_Katrina#cite_note-51