Katrina commander stumps for "culture of preparedness" at KSU

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Honoré preparing future leaders to respond to the ‘new normal’  Perhaps no…

Georgia (Sep 9, 2009)Honoré preparing future leaders to respond to the ‘new normal’

 Perhaps no man knows the devastating effects of being unprepared for disaster more than Lt. Gen. Russel Honore. In August 2005, the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina was charged with salvaging a rescue effort that was ill-equipped to handle the aftermath of the hurricane that ravaged New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Now retired from the military and with those lessons still fresh in his memory, Honoré is coming to Kennesaw State University Sept. 14 to speak on “Building a Culture of Preparedness,” promoting KSU’s crisis management efforts and encouraging involvement with the Red Cross through volunteerism.

“The day after I retired, I went to the Atlanta Red Cross and volunteered,” Honore said. “We have a mission to create Red Cross chapters in universities, and KSU is very involved in preparedness training for their students. As our population continues to expand, we’re not expanding our emergency management services. It’s important for our leaders, which come from universities, to be familiar with the basic procedures taught by the Red Cross to meet this growing need.”

Kennesaw State’s commitment to emergency preparedness can be seen in two opportunities for students this fall. A new learning community called “Emergency! Are You Prepared?” will give yet another option to freshmen looking to participate in KSU’s nationally recognized first-year program. Additionally, a new registered student organization for crisis management is now available, training students in CPR, evacuation procedures and working with emergency response personnel.  

“General Honore's visit to Kennesaw State is a wonderful opportunity for our first-year students to meet and interface one-on-one with a true American hero,” said Yvonne Wichman, an adjunct faculty member in KSU’s English department and developer of the new learning community. “I can think of no better way to begin building a culture of preparedness than to start with the eager freshmen on our campus.”

Honoré gained notoriety for his no-nonsense handling of the post-Katrina evacuation efforts in New Orleans, working to provide food and water, and to restore lines of communication.

 “Our biggest challenge was getting the resources to get people evacuated,” he said. “So much of the infrastructure was underwater and the communications systems were just about destroyed from winds. We had to get them re-established between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and the parishes around New Orleans.”

From his experience handling the nation’s worst natural disaster, Honore realized the pressing demand for a trained civilian force to act as first responders in our post-nuclear society.

“With the fall of communism we did away with Civil Defense and the constant state of readiness we had grown used to,” he said. “We live in a ‘new normal’ where people are clustered in major cities, which make us vulnerable to disasters, whether they are natural or man-made, intentional or accidental. The more we train our society as a whole, the better off we’re going to be to having someone who knows first aid taking care of you until the emergency services get there. That is the intent behind this.”

The new first-year learning community “Emergency! Are You Prepared?” has enrolled 75 students in three sections for the fall semester, each section including an English and science component, along with a seminar course emphasizing crisis management. Students receive nine hours of accredited coursework in emergency preparedness.

“It’s a great move by President Papp to establish that program,” Honore said. “It shows that the institution is caring and it’s involved in the community. That’s what we want to build into our leaders of the future, and Kennesaw State is leading that way.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu