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The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought disaster relief to the spotlight, especially given the fact that the individual appointed to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time of the storm should not have been in that position. However, that does not excuse the actions or the inactions of governments at every level. Most of the blame was placed on the shoulders of the federal government, but state and local governments should have taken some responsibility for the things they did not do. For example, New Orleans and the state of Louisiana ignored advice of the federal government three days before the storm landed ashore when President Bush called for a preemptive state of emergency, and then blamed the same federal government for not giving them enough warning. Americans remember seeing school buses sitting in flooded waters and heard the New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, blame the federal government for not doing enough. This is one example of how governments at every level need to work together before and after a disaster.
There are times, however, when communities have no warning of disaster. These would include tornados, floods, storm surges, and even blizzards. In these times, states need to declare disaster areas by county and then await federal assistance. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the federal government declared a disaster three days prior to the storm landing on shore which gave the governments of Louisiana the authority necessary to do everything necessary to ensure the safety of the people in the path of the storm. September of 2008 was one of those times in Northwest Indiana. Remnants of Hurricane Ike merged with a cold front moving over the plains to create havoc in the Midwest. One community in Munster was devastated and is still recovering a year later. The community banded together and showed that people come first. While people were asking how this could have happened; it was not the first thing people thought about. The first order of business was to ensure that people were safe. Homes and property could be replaced, people could not.
In September 2008, Munster's northern portions suffered record flooding resulting from the impact of Hurricane Ike, which caused the Little Calumet River to overflow. A break occured in the levee located near the intersection Calumet Avenue and River Drive in the northwest portion of the town. As a result, Munster requested the Army Corps of Engineers to elevate the levee in low lying areas. Munster’s Town Manager Tom DeGulio said, "We've never had flooding like this." Indiana National Guard members and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security assisted in the evacuation. Initially, 40 Guardsmen were activated on Sept. 14 to assist the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Indiana Guard personnel placed sandbags, provided security, conducted search and rescue missions, and assisted local authorities. They have also provided equipment such as generators, aircraft, sandbag machines, and high-water vehicles. In this case, the governor of Indiana activated the local Guard to assist in recovery efforts. When FEMA set up shop at Calumet Avenue and 45th Avenue, it forced people to come to them. People in the flood damaged region had lost a great deal and some lost everything. It had become extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most of the victims to provide any form of positive identification. People needed to do everything necessary to clean out their homes, yet they were forced to take time out from cleaning and work to wait in long lines for any assistance from FEMA. In order for FEMA to be more effective, representatives could have gone into the flooded neighborhoods to visit the victims and see first-hand what each victim needed. Authorities from Munster and Lake County aided in the recovery efforts, but the victims were still forced to wait in lines for FEMA assistance. The point is, FEMA could, with local government permission and authority, visit the homes and asses the damages to ensure a more efficient recovery effort.
Guard wades into Indiana flooding
Town of Munster Resolution 1850 Declaring disaster relief
Town of Munster Resolution 1851 on Flooding and Levee repairs
Governor declares storm disaster in Lake, requests federal aid