Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster

Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster

Hurricane Katrina was a category 5 Atlantic Hurricane that caused over 1800 deaths and around $125 billion worth of damage in August 2005. It took place on the Gulf Coast and was declared the most catastrophic disaster in the United States history. Areas that were most affected by the impact of the hurricane were the Bahamas, South Florida, Central Florida, Florida panhandle, Cuba, Louisiana especially the Greater New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, Eastern United States and Eastern Canada.

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Major analysis were carried out after the occurrence of the disaster to establish what could have been done to prevent the deadly effects of the disaster, bringing to light a series of ethical issues that could have been avoided if those entrusted to help safeguard the population would have taken into greater consideration to put in place the right safety measures. Some of the ethical issues that were highlighted included

Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster:

Failure by the Engineers

A series of decisions made by engineers’ decades before the disaster occurred compromised the structure and integrity of the New Orleans Levees system, eventually failing in their obligation to safeguard the residents depending on the Levees for protection. The deadly errors were contributed mainly to costs, scheduling and political pressure

4. Floodwall failure on 17th Street Canal from Hurricane Katrina in New...  | Download Scientific Diagram

  1. The Army Corps engineer calculating the soil strength for the 17th Street Canal Levees and floodwall estimated soil strength below the can by boring samples across 1.5 meter distances, despite New Orleans being an area with high soil variability.  The also used a value 1.3 which was at the low end of generally acceptable, even below Corp’s own value instead of the standard target factor of safety used to account for the great soil variation. Despite this not being the sole cause of failure of the 17th Street Canal levee, a combination of incorrectly interpreted of sample data and the low factor of safety led  to overestimating of the average soil strength by some 30 percent during the design process
  2. The Levees was also designed to endure a less severe hurricane despite the Corp’s chose to build a standard project hurricane which incorporated the severe characteristics that described the region. Wind speeds had previously been reported to range between 101 to 111 mph. The Engineers however did not take that into consideration and built a Levees to withstand wind speeds of up to 100mph only. The wind speeds were than later reported to reach a maximum of 150 to 160 mph, which should have called for the Levees system to be redesigned to match the new data but nothing was done to improve it. Eventually the system ended up being incapable of handling the Katrina’s high wind speeds of up to 125 mph causing massive casualty among the residents depending on it for protection
  3. The Levees were also constructed to heights with reference to land based data which were incorrect despite the design by the Corp’s having being done correctly relative to the mean sea level. Also despite being aware of the subsiding rate of New Orleans to be around 0.2 inches per year, no allowances were made to accommodate the subsidence by the Corp’s in the Levees design. This means that areas around the Industrial Canal were a full 2 feet lower than indicated in the design, hence could not protect the residents against the disastrous hurricane.


Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster:

Failure by the authority.

  1. Despite being aware of the dangers that characterize the affected regions such as New Orleans which had initially witnessed a similar disaster in smaller magnitude, the contractors and those in authority remained ignorant of the risks associated with those areas. They also failed to recognized consequences of such ignorance to safety and well being of human health. This eventually led to lack of adequate and appropriate evacuation and safeguarding measures when the disastrous Hurricane Katrina struck leading to massive casualties being experienced in the region.
  2. It is also evident that the hurricane protection system was mismanaged as evaluations show various systems especially the pump stations having been faulty after the disaster consequently lacking capacity to contain a hurricane, leading to massive loss of life during the Hurricane Katrina Disaster.
  3. It is also discovered that the hurricane protection model design was never subjected to thorough external examination which should be done on all similar life safety systems and structures to ensure that they meet the acceptable standards of integrity. There was therefore no physical evidence to test the engineer’s claim of having built structures that could withstand the unexpected hurricane, eventually resulting in disastrous loss of life.
  4. There was no particular agency tasked with management of the pump stations and Levees. It was therefore shared among various agencies, which brought about lack of enough coordination to ensure effective monitoring measures for the system. These protection systems eventually suffered abandonment and poor maintenance, leaving the residents of such nearby areas vulnerable to disasters such as the Hurricane Katrina.


Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster:

Failure by the doctors

Some unethical practices were also observed in hospitals when casualties of the disaster were taken to the various hospitals to seek medical attention. Such practices were

  1. The most injured victims that required immediate attention were observed to be made to wait as those that sustained less serious injuries were treated first. This was done to ensure only those with greater surviving chance could live while the others died awaiting to be treated
  2. The elder people were also observed to be neglected during administration of medical attention as the doctors and nurses mainly focused on the younger person’s who had greater chances of survival

Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster conclusion

These ethical misconducts lead to death of numerous persons and others were left with lifelong injuries which could have all been avoided if only each of the persons entrusted with the duty of protecting and saving lives of the people could have done their jobs as it was required of them.

Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster recommendations

It is therefore recommended that all persons put in charge of safeguarding human life in whatsoever kind way should never compromise public safety even when faced with such pressure as saving money and upcoming deadlines. They should also hold strong to the professional ethics that govern their work.



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Ethical analysis of Hurricane Katrina Disaster

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