Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Studies Program

First Advisor

Roberta DeMeyer

Second Advisor

Julie Klein





This thesis will analyze different case studies involving catastrophic disasters. I will compare their rescue response from the government to FEMA's response to Katrina, to establish a basis for comparison. The Midwest Floods and California fires will be compared to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans because these places are prone to natural disasters. I will look at each of these states ecology to explain why these states are prone to floods, fires and hurricanes. Unlike the Midwest and California, Hurricane Katrina received far less help from the government and FEMA. I will explore the reasons why this unfair practice took place and propose solutions to make sure this will not happen again.

Chapter one focuses on defining what is interdisciplinary studies and discusses how it can be used to solve complex problems. I will discuss New Orleans background and give an overview of hurricane Katrina. I will examine the importance of the wetlands and show why New Orleans has always been prone to floods since it was founded. Chapter two will explore California's landscape and why this region constantly has wildfires. Yet, despite this they have a good track record for successfully fighting the fires due to technology, a sound disaster plan and excellent leadership. Chapter three covers the 2008 Midwest floods and the different states involved. Due to torrential rainfall the world feared they were witnessing another Hurricane Katrina. However, thankfully our fears did not materialize due to the fast response from the government and FEMA. The purpose of this chapter is to study the Midwest to determine why floods are so prominent in these areas. I will also compare Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts to the Midwest floods.

Chapter four will show how the role of race, class and ethnicity played a role in the disaster relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina, California fires and the Midwest floods. I intend to show that low-income individuals, minorities, women, the elderly and other disenfranchised groups are disproportionately affected by disasters, as Hurricane Katrina demonstrated. Chapter five is the final chapter and it will explore technological solutions that need to be in place in every state to avoid another disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina suffered not only from technological breakdowns but direct communication failures that could have been avoided. These failures were the main culprit for hindering relief efforts. Information technology is important to employ successful rescue efforts but strong leadership and communication skills are crucial to make sure the technology is implemented correctly.