American Planning Association’s Response To Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

by Jeri Ram, CCAPA President
e-mail: [email protected]

Over the past several weeks I have received inquires from many of the State’s planners on what APA is doing in response to the devastation in the south of our Country as a result of the hurricanes.

Last week I attended an APA Leadership Meeting in Buffalo, New York. The Chapter Presidents from all over the United States all asked National APA the same question.

At that meeting, we worked on an organizational strategic framework to effectively respond to the needs of our members and everyone in the affected areas. The Board of Directors adopted a statement outlining APA’s response to recovery from Hurricane Katrina, including key planning principles to make the recovery most effective and equitable.

I was pleased to hear that APA was one of the first responders in the recovery of the area. Many of you may have heard Paul Farmer, APA’s Executive Director, speak on the contributions APA is making on National Public Radio – but for those of you who did not hear – I wanted to convey to you a little of what APA is doing:

  • Pro-bono Planning Assistance Teams of APA’s Professional Institute, AICP, will work with the impacted communities, on location, offering their assistance, expertise and knowledge. The volunteer experts will help community leaders address a variety of planning, rebuilding, hazard mitigation, and other needs.
  • APA is providing a five-person team to evaluate and make recommendations regarding the planning function in New Orleans at the request of local officials and FEMA. The team, headed by Fort Worth Planning Director Fernando Costa, AICP, and including Bob Lurcot, former Planning Director of Pittsburg; Chandra Foreman, an urban planner from Tampa, Florida; and Rich Roths of URS Corp., will be in residence three weeks, working with local planners and officials. APA anticipates providing teams of this type to other impacted communities.
  • APA has created a page listing offers of temporary employment for planners displaced by the hurricane. We know that many of our members have been directly affected and may need housing or jobs.
  • We have created a resume posting section for members and others who wish to provide pro bono services. Many of our members have experienced floods, wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters and can offer valuable assistance to their colleagues and communities in these states.
  • APA will provide a workshop at the Louisiana Chapter Conference October 6-8, 2005 on Recovery Planning. Faculty will consist of international experts who have provided disaster recovery assistance in places such as Australia, Sri Lanka, Japan and several countries of Latin America as well as within the U.S.
  • APA is collaborating with Congressional offices on federal legislation related to Safe Growth, rebuilding initiatives, and a variety of issues such as housing, transportation and the environment.
  • APA will sponsor a summit of design profession organizations, to discuss how to leverage each other’s efforts.
  • APA will create a “kitchen cabinet” sounding board, for discussion of various strategies, in conjunction with Tulane University and key business leaders.
  • APA will support education and constituent building (long-term support-building) using schools as “centers of community,” building a planning curriculum in Gulf Coast schools, special planning projects by community members and school kids, and establishing a potential link with the Gates Foundation.
  • APA will coordinate circuit-riding planners to assist small communities to bring the discussion to the residents in a variety of venues, utilizing volunteer planners, AICP’s Fellows, and so on.
  • APA has a special “Katrina” section of the website that will allow us to continuously add both educational materials and functions.
  • AICP Training provided a Safe Growth workshop in Washington, D.C. in September. This workshop was originally planned as part of our “super topic” curriculum on Safe Growth, which has been a focus of APA for the past two years. This specific workshop curriculum was modified to focus more on disaster recovery and mitigation planning.
  • The Planners Toolkit section of Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction , PAS Report 483/484 , the first all-hazards guidance manual for local planners developing plans for post-disaster recovery and reconstruction is available for free online. This manual includes a model ordinance and case studies of five different hazard scenarios — flood, earthquake, tornado, wildfire and hurricane. The report also offers planning tools for managing long-term community recovery after a natural disaster.
  • APA is also continuing coordination of our efforts with other professional organizations and associations. As planners at the local level are making contacts with local Congressional leaders, our Policy staff in D.C. is making contacts as well.
  • APA has offered a new audio conference called Disaster Recovery, free for planners and others in the Gulf region on Monday, Sept. 19, 2005 at 4 p.m. EDT. More than 250 people participated. The conference focused on emergency permitting, visioning the next steps, rebuilding local businesses, historic preservation and FEMA long-term recovery planning.
  • We are soliciting gifts to the Planning Foundation of APA that will be used exclusively to support the planning efforts that will be undertaken by APA and our Chapters in Louisiana and Mississippi. While we will be coordinating pro bono efforts of members, those efforts, and others, will require financial support. Tax-deductible donations to the Planning Foundation should be noted as “Katrina relief.”
  • APA is developing a special conference track for the National Planning Conference in San Antonio in April 2006, to educate our members about disaster mitigation and recovery.

After attending the National Leadership Meeting and meeting and participating in the exchange of ideas on this issue as well as others, I can convey to you all that at least from my perspective, APA is doing a great job.

Jeri Ram, CCAPA President
e-mail: [email protected]