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Learning from Catastrophe – Lessons in Disaster Recovery

It is always difficult to fully absorb the lessons from wide-scale crises in the wake of the catastrophe. Information is often incomplete or contradictory, or still evolving. Learning these lessons, however, provides an opportunity to address the shortfalls of catastrophic disaster response.

We should therefore learn from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake just as we have should have learned from our own catastrophic events, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, and the events of 9/11.

A team of experts assembled by The Heritage Foundation has identified four areas that are critical to responding to a catastrophe: recovery and resiliency of critical infrastructure; environmental remediation; compensation and disaster assistance; and population resiliency. Many of the lessons involve government doing less, not more, and placing the responsibility for caring for communities back on the communities themselves and reserving for the federal government the responsibilities that only the national government can fulfill.