Or When the Government Failed the People

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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 “repentances” by denigrate the victims of Hurricane Katrina to save his name. He was quoted as calling those stuck in New Orleans “those who chose not to evacuate” (CNN Transcripts, 2005). Evidently, he expected that the sick and impoverished to manage for themselves. With those carefully chosen words, he even went so far as to blame them for their fate. While being interviewed by Fox News days after the hurricane passed, he explained that FEMA’s slow response to the problems in the convention center where thousands of people were trapped was only because he “hadn’t heard about it until today.” This interview was on Thursday, September 1. Obviously, everyone in the country except FEMA’s director had heard about it since it had been on every news station, national and international. In another desperate attempt to clear his name, Brown claimed in an interview, “I must say, this storm is much bigger than anyone expected” (On Larry King show 2008).

Edward Queen, director of the Ethics and Servant Leadership Program said that “to accept a job without competence is immoral” (Emory Report 2005) I will add that it also unethical. Brown took over FEMA in 2003 with little experience in emergency management. He joined the agency in 2001 as legal counselor or his friend, former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh, (who was President Bush 2000 campaign manager). When M. Allbaugh left FEMA in 2003 Brown was offer the job. His previous job for decade was in the head of The International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA), how one could become director of FEMA after being a judge commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association? The answer is “good friendship and relations”. That how a man, one would assume was qualified get the position. M. Brown lack of skill was known as soon as Kratina strikes down Louisiana. His incompetence was not only a waste of money but also may have allowed people to die.

The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina commission concluded that: “instead of...
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