"The twin blows of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the August 29-30, 2005, devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, clearly demonstrated that major disasters pose a multitude of challenges to the people and governments of the United States. The challenges not only threaten the lives of Americans but the legal fabric that binds our society together. The Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association convened a Task Force to evaluate whether the legal system operated effectively in these situations and whether changes could be recommended that would more completely insure adherence to the rule of law. Neither the Task Force nor the Section of Litigation considers ourselves to be experts in disaster planning. An array of professionals, with substantial talent and expertise, has contributed valuable insights on how governments, businesses and families should prepare to respond to, and overcome, a major disaster.
"It is the purpose of these Principles to preserve the rule of law in times of major disaster. The Principles are intended to help insure that justice will continue to be dispensed despite the damage and disruption caused by a major disaster. The Principles are also intended to foster reliance on legal mechanisms when the effort is undertaken to restore a disaster-torn community through programs designed to compensate for loss or render assistance in recovery."—Introduction.
"The legal system ostensibly plays a central role in disaster prevention, response, and management. Attorneys, members of the judiciary, and decision-makers at every level of government must anticipate and respond to disasters in a coordinated manner. It is increasingly clear, however, that the law is woefully unprepared to handle disasters. A growing community of academics recognizes this problem, and is formulating solutions under the rubric of disaster law. This emerging legal academic field encompasses a wide-ranging, intra- and inter-disciplinary body of thought, research and dialogue which seeks to inform and improve disaster-related decision-making.
"On June 25th, 2007, eighteen law professors and legal practitioners who count disasters among their primary research interests, gathered at U.C. Berkeley Law School to chart disaster law's course for the immediate and long-term future. Appendix A, Workshop Participants and Agenda. Over the course of the day, participants highlighted a wide variety of important intellectual concerns and potential problem-solving strategies regarding disaster management.
"In a series of productive discussions, participants first addressed central normative issues of disaster law, including terminology and the role of the legal academy. The group then addressed four sub-areas of disaster law: international collaboration, social justice, compensation and insurance, and prevention and response. Participants' recommendations for action included the creation of an annual disaster law conference, the integration of disaster law into law teaching, and an increased internet presence.
"This white paper, a record of the milestone June 25th workshop, is intended as a
tool for use by disaster law practitioners and academics in mapping the direction and
future of the field."—Executive Summary.
"This essay explores the intellectual contexts wherein disasters are defined as non-routine social problems. The argument is advanced that this theoretical orientation can both open new doors for researchers and assist emergency management professionals in critically reviewing existing policy and future proposals."—Abstract
"America builds on the edge of disaster prone areas: on moveable barrier islands, fragile coastal ecosystems, shorelines subject to inundation, and next to flammable forests. Ferocious storm events focus local and national attention in the tragic moment and during short-term recovery efforts; then, too often, we return to business as usual, continuing to build and rebuild on the edge. 'Losing Ground' provides effective perspectives and prescriptions for longer-term disaster mitigation planning and action. Authors from a variety of disciplines (including law, history, geography, environmental science, and urban planning) review past policies and practices, the lessons learned from previous disasters, current approaches to disaster planning and recovery, an assessment of the proper roles and responsibilities of various levels of government in the federal system, new legal and technological tools, and a review of innovations in disaster mitigation.
"Oliver A. Houck, a renowned professor of law from Tulane University, provides a preface from the perspective of a post-Katrina New Orleans: 'Perhaps, the most striking aspect of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, from Alabama to Texas, is the rush to rebuild in exactly the same places, a few feet back, a few feet higher, more high priced investment than ever before. Two lane bridges are replaced by six lane bridges. Modest beach homes are replaced by condominiums. The hurricane has led to a construction boom. As the Gross National Product measures these things, the hurricanes were a huge success. What is wrong with this picture?.' "—Publisher's Description.
"While dams have multiple benefits (as well as some financial and environmental
costs), they also present a risk to public safety and economic infrastructure. This risk
stems from two sources: the likelihood of a dam failure, and the damage it would
cause. While dam failures are infrequent, age, construction deficiencies, inadequate
maintenance, and seismic or weather events contribute to the likelihood. To reduce
the risk, regular inspections are necessary to identify potential problems. Corrective
action then can be taken to remedy those deficiencies. Congress is often called upon
to fund remedial actions, as a way to prevent the larger catastrophes. The 110th
Congress will likely see proposals for improving dam safety and may oversee
existing safety programs."—Summary.
"In this special interim report, GulfGov Reports looks at the impact of the hurricanes on 15 communities. The school districts are parish and county wide in Louisiana and Mississippi. (In Louisiana, counties are called parishes.) In Mississippi, the school districts examined are all city districts. Specifically, the study examines systems in Calcasieu, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany parishes in Louisiana; Bay St. Louis/Waveland, Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Laurel, and Pascagoula in Mississippi; and Mobile County in Alabama."-Overview Analysis.
"My testimony is organized in terms of three points in time. First, I discuss observations made by some researchers and practitioners concerning the ways in which post-September 11 policy and programmatic changes were adversely affecting FEMA's ability to respond in future major disaster events. Second, I briefly review assessments of FEMA's performance during hurricane Katrina, as well as post-Katrina reforms. Third, I suggest changes that have the potential for enhancing FEMA's ability to reduce losses in future disaster events. With little notice in terms of developing testimony, I have relied a great deal on my own experience and writings. Nonetheless, I believe that my comments accurately reflect what many in the research and practice communities have observed over the past six years."—Testimony.