Continuing on After a Crippling Natural Disaster

October 2, 2017

As of this writing, Hurricane Maria had just battered Puerto Rico, causing widespread destruction on the island. The executive director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency said that the effects of Maria “are incalculable.”

Before this, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma killed dozens of people in the United States and Caribbean, destroyed countless homes and buildings, and caused damage in the billions. At PRSA, we’ve heard from members around the country who have been asking how they can help those affected by these storms.

Based on these queries, PRSA launched a Storm Support Resources center online in early September. In addition, members may visit the MyPRSA Community to share resources and services with colleagues. These may include help with office space, outreach or other communications activities.

Remembering Katrina

I revisited articles from our archives related to disaster relief and crisis preparedness. In the September 2006 issue of Tactics, members of PRSA’s New Orleans Chapter shared their experiences and reflections on moving forward after a crippling natural disaster — Hurricane Katrina. Here are two excerpts, which I found both comforting and compelling:

“My relationships with fellow PR professionals through the New Orleans PRSA Chapter were my salvation, as a lot of my new work came through members.

Hurricane Katrina had unexpected positive consequences. I value my life, family, friends and community with a renewed passion. I am stronger and more confident in my profession. It is still hard down here, as huge swaths of the city have not recovered. But that’s why we’re sticking around — to be part of the reason our region recovers. And it will. I have faith in us.” Ann Barks, APR

“Like many others, I fled New Orleans in the wee hours of Aug. 28. Figuring I would be back in two days, packing consisted of stuffing an extra golf shirt, a pair of pants and pajamas into an overnight bag. I grabbed my laptop, put my dog in the car, boarded up the house and left.

My planned two-day evacuation ended up being three months. I slept in seven different cities, bouncing from friends to family to hotels. My business was gone. When reality hit that I wasn’t going home, I ended up driving to Denver to stay with my brother. Close to 1,900 miles of driving later, the only thing I knew was that I owned a laptop, two pairs of pants, two shirts and a pair of pajamas. One moment, I was a PR specialist in New Orleans; the next, an evacuee in Denver.

I can say there have been many lessons learned. For me, it comes down to: The next time I evacuate, I’ll pack more clothes.” Ann Christian, APR 

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.



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