Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper 360° is in New Orleans tonight, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf of Mexico, expected to reach Category 3. We'll look at whether New Orleans is ready, after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina exactly three years ago today. Watch our special report tonight at 10p ET.
David M. Reisner
AC360° Digital Producer
The Hurricane season has picked up this past week, with one storm headed for the Gulf Coast, and another on course to become the 8th named storm of the year.
General Honoré was known best for serving as commander of ‘Joint Task Force Katrina.’ He was responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the Gulf Coast. Now retired, he spends much of his time in the region, and works to prepare families for future natural disasters.
I caught up with the general as he was traveling from his Georgia home to New Orleans last week. Our conversation covered as much ground as the general did, and we will share with you parts of that conversation over the course of the day.
We talked about how families readiness. How people can't simply rely on the government to bail them out, as we saw in Katrina. He provides us with 3 rules that every family in a danger zone should follow, and plan for.
You’ve taken hurricane preparedness to the next level – how can people prepare themselves?
I’m a Red Cross volunteer, so i follow that doctrine. It’s time proven, and the Red Cross is the gold standard for family readiness.
The first two rules don’t really cost you money; having a plan and staying informed.
What is the biggest threat we pose to ourselves?
I think the biggest thing that makes a difference is personal readiness, family readiness. There is only so much the government can do. You expect your government to have good roads, levees, bridges, and hospitals but – when you look at preparedness for hurricanes, if families don’t prepare, and they are not prepared to spend 3 days to be rescued or waiting for the power to come on, that’s the biggest threat I see. Because the government is not going to put a generator in everybody's home. Katrina closed the roads, it’s flooded the city, it destroyed the cell towers. it prevented us from being able to flush toilets. Katrina did all of that. If families aren’t prepared then it will take the government a long time to help them.
According to the Red Cross for every dollar you invest in preparedness, you save six dollars after disaster during recovery. That’s a pretty powerful statement isn’t it. if people do self preparedness its going to increase their chance of survival, and saving their property during and right after disaster.
Then we need to look at policy – there are things the government has not done, that we have learned from Katrina. Particularly along the gulf coast. We made specific recommendations that drug stores be required to have generators. You might say, well why is that? After Katrina, we saw perfectly good drug stores that couldn’t stay open to sell to customers and give out medicines. We need to fix that.
When a drug store license is issued, we need to say ‘OK, you have to have a generator before we give you your license. Oh by the way, we are going to give you an incentive, a tax credit on that generator when you buy it. Because you’ve put a generator in and you've made our community more resilient. Same is true for gas stations.
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