Michael Brown: how to learn from Haiti

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Federal News Radio

By Suzanne Kubota

Senior Internet Editor

FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal workers and contractors in Haiti are calling on lessons-learned from Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami as they deliver relief.

While each response is different, they all have things in common. “It is the same everywhere: response, recovery, mitigation, and then you’re planning for future disasters.”

Federal News Radio talked with Michael Brown, who led early FEMA efforts during Hurricane Katrina, about what the lessons learned from this effort will be.

“You always learn things,” said Brown, “what worked, what didn’t work.”

Comparing the aftermath of Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake to Katrina’s impact on New Orleans, Brown said he had a head start.

Look, in Katrina, I had a state and local government that was there. It was somewhat dysfunctional mainly, but at least they were there. In Haiti, you have no government. I mean you have no infrastructure… so our teams had to move in to an area where there was literally nobody in charge, and you had to take charge, do it diplomatically because this isn’t New Orleans. This is a foreign country. And in this case we had to be very careful about how we do it and I think they did it exceptionally well.

Brown told the Daily Debrief that now is the time for local and state governments to be learning as well.

“I would think that Los Angeles and New Madrid, Missouri and all these places along all these fault lines – they should have observers there as soon as it’s safe to have them there for them to watch what happens, what’s working, and what’s not working.”

In the weeks and months ahead, Brown said that as the response phase transitions into the recovery phase, major decisions will have to be made.

“We don’t know what the objectives are,” said Brown. “Is it to establish a new government? Is it to establish a new economy? Those are issues that go well beyond the response and recovery efforts to, truthfully, foreign policy aspects.”

Brown stressed the importance of preparing for that now, because he knows from personal experience “everyone will be watching us. We have to be very methodical. We have to be very powerful, but very smart about what we do now.”

Michael Brown is now the CEO of the Next of Kin Registry.

Follow Next of Kin Registry on Twitter: @NOKR

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