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Or When the Government Failed the People

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Or When the Government Failed the People

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  • December 2012
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Hurricane Katrina
Or when the government failed The People
Business Ethics

Disasters are not totally isolate events. Their possibility of occurrence, time, place and gravity of the strike can be reasonably and in some cases precisely predicted by technological and scientific advances. The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters defines that “A disaster is a situation or event which overwhelms local capacity, necessitating a request to a national or international level for external assistance” (CRED). Perhaps, one reason for this observation is that the disaster relief agencies are often the only organizations with the competencies to deal with them. As a director of The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown was responsible to coordinate the response given to the disaster that overwhelmed local and state resources and he failed to accomplish is duty. Immanuel Kant's theory of deontological ethics argues that, “in order to act in the morally right way, people must act from duty” (1790).

M. Brown’s duty as a director was to provide an immediate and long-term assistance to the individual in need. After all, who better than FEMA to know what to do in time of crisis like Hurricane Katrina. M. Brown’s responses and behavior throughout the catastrophe were unethical because he did not seem to realize that people were in deep distress and therefore, failed to take the necessary actions. The hurricane has exposed ethical problems “related to social justice” (James Buehler 2005) and raised questions of how emergency services should be used.

During his hearing before the ethics commission for Hurricane Katrina, M. Brown recognized that his biggest mistake was not “recognizing by Saturday (a day before the hurricane strikes) that Louisiana was dysfunctional” (Brown’s testimony 2005). Clearly, he should have known days before that the state of Louisiana evacuation was far from complete. However, M. Brown went further in his...