Gulfport Mayor Says Think outside the Box If Disaster Hits; Brent Warr Discusses His Role as Mayor during Hurricane Katrina at an Emergency Management Symposium

By Maloney, Kevin | Nation's Cities Weekly, June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

Gulfport Mayor Says Think outside the Box If Disaster Hits; Brent Warr Discusses His Role as Mayor during Hurricane Katrina at an Emergency Management Symposium


Maloney, Kevin, Nation's Cities Weekly


The official start of the hurricane season--June 1--marked the day that the Connecticut Emergency Management Symposium: Planning Locally and Responding Regionally, was held in Cromwell, Conn. The event, attended by nearly 600 state, local and business officials, was co-sponsored by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Mayor Brent Warr, of Gulfport, Miss, gave the keynote address for the symposium. City leader during the greatest natural disaster in the nation's history, Warr discussed his role as mayor, before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, and his interaction with other municipal, regional, state and federal officials.

"When you've been through a hurricane, it's literally hell," Warr said, his voice cracking. "I want to challenge you to think about things that are so far out of the box that you don't read them in any book about what to do in a storm."

He advised Connecticut officials to "develop detailed play books for all types of disaster scenarios, not to count on federal help for at least three days after a catastrophe and to be creative." "If we had only thought to weld the manhole covers shut," Warr noted. He said that would have prevented tons of sand and debris from being sucked into his city's sewer system following Hurricane Katrina and saved Gulfport millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs.

Warr said he had to order his police chief to find someone in the local jail who could hot-wire a tanker truck the city was using to bring in fuel for generators.

The city printed its own currency after the storm to pay vendors because all the banks were closed. Walt also had to dispatch guards to protect hospitals from mobs of drug addicts who no longer had a supply line to feed theft addictions--something he had not anticipated. …

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