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Deadly Indifference: Hurricane Katrina,…

Deadly Indifference: Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Disease Pandemics and the… (2011)

by Michael D. Brown, Ted Schwarz

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3617476,839 (2.93)1
At last, former Under Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Brownż?żinfamously praised by President George W. Bush for doing a "heckuva job" in the wake of Hurricane Katrinaż?żtells his side of the response to one of the greatest natural disasters to occur in the United States. Without making excuses for anyone, least of all the President of the United States or himself, Brown describes in detail what ultimately turned out to be the largest federal response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.… (more)



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Michael D. Brown, the former chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, left federal government service as a goat, shouldering the American public’s blame for what was perceived as the failed federal response in Louisiana to Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. In Deadly Indifference, Brown tells his side of the story, laying the blame for the hurricane’s aftermath at the feet of politicians, both local and national, who were more concerned with minimizing voter fallout and maximizing their press coverage than with the plight of citizens affected by the storm. While Brown’s account is certainly one-sided, his tale provides words of wisdom for us to heed in the event of future catastrophes.
Bearing the brunt of Brown’s abuse are New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, both for their ignorance regarding FEMA’s abilities and their unwillingness to take the lead in emergency readiness, what Brown refers to as “NIMBI” tactics (Not In My Best Interest). According to Brown, Blanco, seeing that New Orleans was to bear the brunt of the storm, passed the buck on evacuation decisions to Nagin who, unwilling to risk the political fallout of prematurely ordering an evacuation, at first declared a voluntary evacuation of the city’s low-lying wards, only ordering a mandatory evacuation once the storm was less than a day away. One particularly effective, though unsourced charge is that Nagin was still meeting with the city’s legal counsel less than twenty hours before Katrina hit, trying to determine the city’s legal liability if a mandatory evacuation was ordered.
Further compounding the lack of preparation was a misunderstanding of what FEMA could do. FEMA could not control the National Guard. FEMA could not send first responders into the storm nor could they provide supplies. They could pay for them, certainly, but it was the responsibility of local officials to procure buses for evacuation, which neither Blanco nor Nagin did. Then, the city of New Orleans began funneling people to the Superdome and convention center without provisioning any food, water, or supplies to care for them, apparently assuming that such supplies would just magically appear from federal coffers.
The most outrageous anecdotes are left for the political grandstanding that followed the storm. Brown tells of following Governor Blanco and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu through what was supposed to be a tour of the hardest-hit areas. Instead, Blanco drove them to relatively unaffected Jefferson Parish to do some politicking while Senator Landrieu co-opted a rescue helicopter to find her family at their summer home, ensuring they were okay. The most brutal assault, however, is left for Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, who went over Brown’s head to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, diverting the USNS Comfort—a naval vessel reequipped for medical support and intended for New Orleans—to the Mississippi Coast, where it was not needed.
There is much blame to go around regarding the response to Hurricane Katrina. Brown’s is yet another voice eager to lay that blame on somebody’s shoulders other than his own. His account is a decidedly one-sided affair in which his own failures are usually the result of the misunderstandings and failings of others. But his larger argument, that political shortsightedness and opportunism can turn into “deadly indifference,” is worth considering and developing the means to counteract in the future. ( )
  tjwilliams | Nov 27, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found out a lot of information I hadn't previously known about Hurricane Katrina. I enjoyed the author's writing style. ( )
  scrmom15 | Oct 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, writes about what happened after Katrina. Although it's an interesting perspective, he really doesn't take responsibility for what happened and tries to blame everyone else. I managed to finish the book but I was still disappointed.
  mallinje | Jan 3, 2012 |
At times throughout Deadly Indifference, the information about and the story of Katrina became particularly intriguing, even exciting for me to read. Unfortuneatly, those moments were too few. There was a lot of repetition in this book, specifically the stating over and over again that Mayor Ray Nagin should have called for a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. But in this regard, I believe Mr. Brown made his point particularly well. I suspect that if Mayor Nagin had ordered a mandatory evacuation, Michael Brown would not have had a need to write this book. The book starts off a little slow with too many pages spent on the 1951 cold war civil defense film Duck and Cover. Later in the book there is a passage about a toddler that choked on a hot dog and the grieving mother's crusade against the design of hot dogs, which left me to wonder if the author had earned his fee by the word count. The best chapters are smack in the middle of the book, where the reading is most interesting and the material exciting too. In the end, I finished the book feeling like Katrina was a disaster made worse by politicians making decisions based on their own best interest, and events exaggerated by misinformation peddled by a media where "everyone wanted to be first more than anyone wanted to be accurate." ( )
  tomdye | Dec 11, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Brown was the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time of Hurricane Katrina. After being blamed by assorted Bush Administration figures for the federal response to the hurricane Brown decided to give his side of the story. He maintains that FEMA has gotten a bum rap and most of the problems were the result of local officials and their failure to order an evacuation until it was too late. Other problems were due to the added layer of bureaucracy due to FEMA being folded into DHS and the different mission FEMA has from the rest of DHS, response rather then prevention. Michael Chertoff gets particular blame, but the President, and others in the Administration get some as well.

An interesting view of the events surrounding Katrina, but more importantly a scathing indictment of politicians in general. Brown rightly points to the idea of NIMBI or “Not in My Best Interest”, as the overriding motive behind most politicians from both parties. They are more concerned with scoring political points then in actually doing what is needed. The recent debates regarding the debt ceiling serve to emphasize his points. The book is a little uneven and runs out of steam before the last chapter which feels tacked on, possibly to stretch the length which is only 232 pages including index and documentation.

I received this book from the LT Early Readers program. ( )
1 vote sgtbigg | Sep 22, 2011 |
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Schwarz, Tedmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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At last, former Under Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Brown—infamously praised by President George W. Bush for doing a "heckuva job" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina—tells his side of the response to one of the greatest natural disasters to occur in the United States. Without making excuses for anyone, least of all the President of the United States or himself, Brown describes in detail what ultimately turned out to be the largest federal response to a natural disaster in U.S. history.
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