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The Role of American Red Cross in Dealing with Hurricane Katrina

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At the time of Hurricane Katrina, the ARC launched a disaster response program in an attempt to save lives. The response and the income spend in the project turned out to be the largest in history. The devastating Hurricane Katrina extended to the gulf shores within its time of occurrence. The storm turned out to be very disastrous for the occupants of the Gulf Coast. The incident took the lives of roughly 1800 people from the region and caused the displacement of approximately 200000 people from their homes (Haskett et. al., 2008).

Besides the loss of lives, the storm led to the destruction of products and supplies approximating to roughly 81 billion US dollars. The hurricane destroyed properties for roughly 350000 residences (Haskett et. al., 2008). The Katrina relief resulted in in the evacuation of all the residents of the Metropolitan area. Survivors were also dispersed in in different states. The initiative engaged more than 245000 Red Cross disaster workers in assisting numerous people with the supply of money, shelter and food to support them emotionally and provide them with their basic needs. This paper analyzes the response of the agency to the needs of New Orleans.

Based on the fact that ARC relies on systems thinking approach, their failures are attributed to the inability of the team to adhere to systems thinking. Systems thinking entail an assessment of the vulnerability of people to natural disasters and the establishment of solutions. It involves the incorporation of a structured way of examining the factors that enhance the susceptibility of people to disasters and the identification of possible entry points to control those factors (Haskett et. al., 2008). Additionally, systems thinking imply accepting all possible uncertainties and intricacies with an understanding that all disasters are not linear and attempts to solve the issues occurs with a certain level of uncertainty.

According to the organization, all national residents have access to lifesaving amenities and they can find support whenever they need it. This implies that the Red Cross team is supposed to be at the place of the disaster soon enough so as to save lives. However, in the case of New Orleans, the ARC team delayed for three days (Haskett et. al., 2008). In consideration of the disastrous impacts of the incident, a huge section of the population suffered from a serious problem of lacking access to sufficient housing facilities. The issue was compromised further after the storms. The lack of access to adequate houses heightened due to the sluggish response of the Red Cross to fix the problem. Actions taken by respective authorities in New Orleans worsened the situation for local residents. Examining the region 10 years after the destruction of Katrina indicates a failure in the initiative of ARC (Haskett et. al., 2008).

It is clear that most of the victims still lack access to housing facilities as they are registered as internally displaced persons. The process of recovering from the incident entailed the destruction of houses of the public with the unavailability of the commitment to reconstruct destroyed rental rooms. The people from the houses were to be relocated by the Red Cross in consideration of their policies and mission statement. Additionally, the Red Cross failed to offer affordable housing for the displaced. They also failed to provide finances to home owners to support them in constructing new structures in a timely manner. The circumstances created an environment of public displacement. The problem of housing is highly affecting residents of New Orleans. The destruction of structures and the incapability to reconstruct or repair buildings created a menace. There were also fewer affordable houses for the residents. After Katrina in the unsatisfactory performance of ARC, the cost of low income public housing apartments rose by 40% (Haskett et. al., 2008).

This led to the eviction of residents who were initially residing within the neighborhood. The Red Cross had a humanity principle that affirms the desire to assist people in a discrimination-free way. The policy directed the prevention and alleviation of all forms of human suffering under all circumstances. The purpose of the principle is to uphold the protection of life, preserve health, and embrace respect for all human beings. It also fosters mutual understanding, cooperation and friendship. However, the response of the ARC to the hurricane in Katrina was planned shoddily (Haskett et. al., 2008). The process relied on managers who lacked experience in the field. Most of them often failed to meet the victims’ needs. There was a mismatch between the supplies victims needed and the services that the Red Cross provided. Notably, a plan had not been prepared to assist the leaders in identifying the kind of supplies to be distributed. Additionally, the decision to skip the record keeping process created a leeway for things to go astray. The clearest issue that was noticed was the incapability to meet the basic needs of the prospected beneficiaries.

Criminal misconduct was also evident among volunteer managers. This happened at the disaster area. Normally, officials and representatives of the ARC are supposed to be benevolent and willing to help. Willingness to help is one of the core attributes that will give an individual the urge to listen to what the victims of a disastrous occurrence will have to either say or request. It will also determine if the listener will go ahead to act in accordance to the expectations of the victim. The only possible way through which there can be a mismatch between the expectations of the beneficiaries and the providers of the services is through arrogance and irresponsibleness. Such behaviors are contrary to the expectations of the organization. They may never to the achievement of the mission and goals of Red Cross.

The Red Cross failed on a number of aspects in their systems’ thinking approach to situations. The organization operates under a policy of igniting readiness in residents so that they can acknowledge the various ways of dealing with disasters. They also operate under the certainty that all people involved in the disaster are capable of receiving shelter, care and hope. This was not the case for New Orleans victims. The Red Cross arrived there three days after the hurricane has occurred. While relief was being offered in other hurricane struck areas, nothing was going on in New Orleans (Haskett et. al., 2008). This shows failure and ineptitude on the side of the organization.

An organization such as Red Cross operating in its capacity was supposed to send its representatives early enough to put people in a state of readiness prior to the occurrence of the incident. If any disaster would have occurred, preparations to ensure the protection of lives are supposed to have been already installed. Notably, the ARC failed in the delivery of services especially on the aspect of delaying to arrive at New Orleans. Among its fundamental principles is universality which shows the representation of equality in status and responsibilities as well as in duties of helping each other. Under this principle, the organization was supposed to deliver similar services in all disaster stricken areas at the most immediate time. Availing themselves in one region three days later was an illegality on the universality principle.

Under systems thinking, American Red Cross has a team of individuals who have been trained employ life saving skills in all possible ways. This implies that all its members interacting with victims of disasters should have exceptional networking skills to relate well. They also value the needs of citizens and thus, they are quick to act on the demands of clients. However, in some instances, the victims of the disaster requested prepared meals from the Red Cross team. In response, the team gave them bananas. In another instance, volunteers were patrolling in the neighborhood, seemingly, trying to find some people to help. Some people asked for juice and water (Haskett et. al., 2008). On the other side, the Red Cross volunteer had only bleaches on their hands. All possible efforts to correct the problem were rebuffed. More experienced teams that were supposed to handle the provision of services of supplies to other people were given the responsibility of handing out the relief supplies. However, it was possible to allocate the work of handing out to Red Cross volunteers as it requires less experience. Listening and attending to the needs of victims of the disaster would have been tackled by experienced people. One of the reports recorded the presence of volunteer relief coordinators who were on their first mission. It was not practical to send inexperienced people on a sensitive operation. The region is prone to serious and life threatening occurrences that need highly experienced people to tackle them. Some vehicles were lost in the life saving process.

The main reason for this is that the individual placed in charge of roughly 100 vehicles was incapable of managing them (Haskett et. al., 2008). He could not tell the specific people who were driving the various vehicles. In its vision statement, it focuses on ensuring that disaster stricken people can receive hope, care and shelter. Hope can only be received if the people interacting have a healthy relationship amongst them. It is hard to encourage another person if you foster a hostile environment with the target clients. Care is measured in consideration of the form and level of interaction between them. Any form of harassment and failure to listen to other peoples demands does not show care. From the issues stated above, it is clear that there was less control on deliveries. This paved way for numerous illegalities that in turn encouraged misconduct endeavors in duty handling. It was easy for any expert in the field of logistics to recognize most of the faults committed by the managers during service delivery.

The fact that some people missed most of the supplies that were appropriate to them indicates that there was a problem with the organization’s supply chain. In case of any emergency, plans should always be put in place ensure that there is a consistency in the supply of the most essential items. Good planning processes in cases entailing emergencies prioritize on vital supplies and ensure that none of the victims lack them when they need them. Availing the needs in advance ascertains shortening of the supply chain. This improves the delivery of basic needs such as water and food. The Red Cross should consider adopting a full-blown supply chain management system that handles the entire process of purchasing supplies to the ultimate delivery process. It should do away with its simple logistics operation to avoid problems relating to supplies. In actualizing the process, the organization should involve its supporters and ask for their support in the transit procedure. This will ensure that any catastrophic events in the near future are taken care off in accordance to stipulated organizational goals and ambitions. In a good and practical supply chain management system, the victims may have a continual supply of vital needs. Furthermore, instances of miscommunication between the volunteers and the victims may reduce. This is because the volunteers will be forced to provide the supplies kept in stores. Notably, supplies kept in stores will only be those required by the victims of the disaster.

The strategy may also solve the issue of financial accountability. In Katrina’s incident, the organization received a lot of funds from supporters. Even though the managers indicated how they used the money. It was easy to note that most of the victims’ needs were not met. The Red Cross team should incorporate appropriate strategies in the delegation of duties to its workers. Tasks necessitating prior experience should be left for individuals with skill and expertise (Haskett et. al., 2008). However, other tasks that do not involve expertise should be delegated to volunteers. In the case of what transpired during the Katrina incident, individuals with experience should have been given the opportunity to listen to the needs of the victims of the disaster and serve them in accordance to their needs. However, volunteers would have helped in giving out the supplies requested by the victims of the disaster. Responsibilities should also be given based on people’s preparedness. Participants should not be given tasks that they cannot handle. Additionally, policies need to be stipulated to guide the process of delegating duties. Individuals undertaking their first operation should not be sent on highly sensitive operations.

Even though voluntary service is the cornerstone of service delivery in Red Cross, it should strive to ensure that its programs do not remain substandard and their services to the victims of the incident do not remain suboptimal. In upholding professionalism, Red Cross should ensure that there are documentations for all inventories. Individuals delegated with the various responsibilities should undergo a diligent training program where concepts of accountability are provided. Such programs guarantee a stronger system where inventories can be tracked (Haskett et. al., 2008). This will evade possible cases of blaming the organization on allegations of misappropriation of funds. It can also guarantee the organization of upholding healthy relationships with present and prospect donors. Instances of unaccountability may not be too good for operation of the organization. They may destroy the reputation of the organizations to possible victims and also attract the interest of journalists creating a favorable environment for critics.

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