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Public Policy and Administration


Donald McLellan


It is well documented that in the aftermath of a natural or human caused disaster, certain at-risk and vulnerable populations suffer significantly more than do other population groups. As a result, Congress enacted the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act (PKEMRA) in part to address deficiencies in providing aid to vulnerable populations, though little is known if the PKEMRA has resulted as it was intended. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to assess the impact of the PKEMRA on addressing emergency preparedness deficits related to at-risk and vulnerable populations. The theoretical framework followed Howard's conceptualization of game and drama theory. The research questions focused on the extent to which the PKEMRA recommendations improved disaster lifecycle outcomes for at-risk and vulnerable groups in Orleans Parish, LA between Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Isaac in 2012. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews of 5 emergency managers with knowledge and experience local to Orleans Parish, LA. Interview data were systematically reviewed using inductive coding and categorized for thematic analysis. Key study findings indicated that the improvements made to family location registries, evacuation procedures, and disaster resources for these populations in Orleans Parish were not a result of the PKEMRA, but of the state and local emergency agencies without input from the federal government. This study contributes to social change by promoting greater transparency of federal programs targeting at-risk and vulnerable populations, making direct recommendations to use Orleans Parish as a relevant example to address the needs of these populations. Such a review will serve as an exportable model for similar communities across the country.

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