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Natural disaster-seasoned governor measures building, human resilience

13 Book 200In a resilience-themed keynote address at the Portland Cement Association Spring Congress, two-term (2004–2012) Mississippi Governor and past (1993–1997) Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour assured his audience, “In my state, there is a whole lot more concrete being used today than there was before Hurricane Katrina.”

Giving concrete structures their due and referencing strengthened state building codes in the wake of the deadly August 2005 storm that ravaged coastal Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, Gov. Barbour told the mid-March gathering in Chicago, however, “There is no substitute for the resilience of strong people.”

Gov. Barbour credited the coastal region’s recovery to residents and 900,000-plus volunteers from 46 states who through relief or faith-based organizations assisted in rebuilding efforts over the five years following Hurricane Katrina. Sound redevelopment strategies coupled with a determined citizenry, he noted, enabled the region to mark the storm’s 10th anniversary with population at 105 percent of the 2005 level—against 60 percent for coastal Louisiana.

Reflecting on experiences outlined in his 2015 book, America’s Great Storm – Leading Through Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Barbour underscored four takeaways for an executive contending with a “mega disaster”: Preparation matters; Somebody has to be in charge; Tell the truth; and, A bad decision is almost always worse than no decision.

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