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Your e-mails: Learning from tragedy

CNN.com readers on how to plan for future disasters

SPECIAL REPORT

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(CNN) -- This year's busy hurricane season has left many wondering what, if anything, can be learned to prevent future loss? CNN.com posed this question to readers, who sent in their ideas by e-mail. Here is a selection of those responses, some of which have been edited:

Unfortunately, the lesson that was learned by all Americans in the face of the Katrina devastation was that poverty still exists in America. It was upsetting to see so many Americans who could not prepare to wait out the storm. And warnings don't mean anything when you have no means to get out of harm's way. The local, state, and federal governments must come up with a plan to assist those that cannot help themselves. And as citizens we must also help when our governments fail to do so.
Ayana, Baltimore, Maryland

The state and local governments need to step up and do their job when a hurricane is approaching. Expecting the federal government to take over a region even before a natural disaster strikes creates a dangerous precedent and threatens personal freedom and states' rights. If the mayor and governor had done their jobs, like Gov. Bush and local officials do in Florida, this hurricane would not have become talking points for Howard Dean and Louis Farrakhan.
Isaac, Jacksonville, Florida

What I'm hoping that civilians everywhere have learned from the Katrina disaster is that the best laid plans can go awry in the blink of an eye ... especially when dealing with thousands of people at the same time. Make your own evacuation and survival plans when living in an area that is prone to natural disasters. Don't wait for the government or anyone else to bail you out. Have a survival kit on the ready at all times. Keep the supplies fresh. Practice an evacuation plan with your family and pets. "When" not "if" a disaster strikes, be ready to MOVE! Be sure not to panic and just GET OUT when told to do so. "Things" can be replaced while lives and pets cannot ... just be certain to have the proper insurance and that your policy is always kept up to date.
L. Kelly, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I'm a resident of New Orleans. So far we've lost four family members, our jobs, our property, and our family is now separated. It has become a strain on our family. My advice to hurricane-prone areas is to move your family inland. As you can see, almost the entire Gulf Coast is gone. Please be mindful of that.
Troyann LaFrance, New Orleans, Louisiana

I'd love to live on the Gulf Coast but this past hurricane season has confirmed that my choice to live elsewhere was a sound one. If you live in a disaster-prone area, you have choices. The choice is whether or not to live there. Are the 51 weeks of superior weather worth that week of disaster? If you choose to live in a disaster-prone area and do not prepare to deal with it yourself, then you will only get a measured amount of sympathy from me. I have grown tired of funding other people's poor choices through donations, taxes and inflated insurance costs. Rebuilding some of the decimated locations on the Gulf Coast is inviting more of the same.
Keith Orawiec, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Although I am for coastal restoration and I know that it will help, I have my reservations about spending tax dollars to improve private property. About 90 percent of the coastal marshes in Louisiana are privately owned. Because of the laws in Louisiana, land owners are able to deny public access to the tidal waters that flow through these marshes. This allows land owners to control the harvest, both recreationally and commercially, of fish, crabs, shrimp, and other marine species. Therefore, we should give greater conservation for future laws, before deciding to spend millions of tax dollars on restoring private property.
Mark, Golden Meadow, Louisiana

For years now, large urban areas have been lay-in-wait disaster areas populated with those who constantly clamor for government to assist and control many aspects of their lives. As our nation observed these are exactly the sects who looted the city of New Orleans at the opportune moment, shot at rescue helicopters and emergency workers, then cried for government help when it became clear self-reliance was as foreign an ideology as capitalism in Stalin's Soviet Union. Those who live within our country's various inner city limits should realize just how trapped and hopeless their lives can become, should they choose to filter to the next generation a lifestyle that relies on disbursed tax dollars and social ineptitude, when their city's "Big One" arrives.
Christian Koerner, Metairie, Louisiana

Cancel the insurance of anyone who fails to evacuate when told it's mandatory. Give classes in preparedness for newcomers. Also, end all of the post event government assistance; let natural selection decide the future.
John Lawshe, Osteen, Florida

Hurricane Katrina has taught us that nature's power is still supreme and that sometimes we have to sit and wait for it to be over. It taught us that bureaucracy prevented help from getting to where it was needed. It taught us that the government must do a better job organizationally and logically to response to an emergency. It taught us that sometimes the best defense is not enough. It taught us that certain areas prone to hurricanes may be the best places to live or conduct business. It taught us that prudence must considered in constructing homes in a bowl-shaped area. Hurricane Katrina taught us many lessons, I hope we learn them.
Dan French, Holland, Michigan

As a member of the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) I have studied in-depth both natural and man-made disasters. EARLY evacuation is a key to survival even if the forecast for the path of hurricanes remains unknown- something that is quite common. Also, people need to stock up on the necessary water and food and medicines at ALL times!!!!!!! Some pre-planning doesn't hurt even in off seasons. We also need to have the military and the government in charge while the emergency exists as we need a chain of command that can respond quickly and keep the peace so that looters cannot run wild in the devastated areas.
Nancy Corner, Virginia Beach, Virginia

One should not rely on the federal government to mitigate the effects of a hurricane. Be ready. Ensure that your local Emergency Management Coordinator has been in touch with state authorities. Follow the money. The catastrophe caused by Louisiana's governor and New Orleans' mayor need not be repeated. Gov. Barber, a true leader, made a good example. But above all, follow the money.
David Marks, Biloxi, Mississippi

We're talking about a Gulf Coast, hurricane-prone city, located BELOW sea level and protected by aging levees. To make matters worse, the residents were warned to evacuate. If there was ever a recipe for disaster, this was it! The levees should have been rebuilt or at the very least reinforced long ago. Unfortunately, we live in a country where people have to die before money gets budgeted. Now it will cost the American taxpayer exponentially more than it would had local and state government been proactive.
Edward Doane, Selma, North Carolina

For those who seem to think that "preparedness" is the end all, be all of hurricane disasters -- it isn't. We were prepared -- we had food and water for 72 hours and we weren't in the flood zone. We felt safe, we felt smug. All our preparedness wasn't enough. Power, we were told, would be out for up to a month. Gasoline (for the generator) could only be found rarely and then we could only purchase 5 gallons. I have MS and need air conditioning, so four days AFTER hurricane Katrina, we had to leave while we could. Yes, self sufficiency is good; preparedness is good -- if you have the money. For those who aren't as well-off as we were, the government needed to have done more sooner. I'm sorry, for some folks, for whatever reasons, the government was all they had and they were badly let down.
Dee Young, McHenry, Mississippi

When you see a Category 5 storm heading across the Gulf of Mexico, it's 5 days away, heading right for you, and not likely to change course....leave.
Bryan, Punta Gorda, Florida

Prepare to take care of yourself and your property. Do not expect help from any private or governmental agency, as they will be overwhelmed, and in many ways, ineffective. Do not take the fury of nature lightly or the world as you know it for granted. Rebuild what you can, replace what you have to, and then, go on down the road.
James Rea, Covington, Louisiana

It is better to be safe than sorry. Make all the preparations needed even if you end up not using the supplies. Do NOT depend on FEMA to come rescue you. As much as possible do not depend on ICE either, keep minimal frozen food during hurricane season. Save money so that when possible you can leave town before the storm hits. All Cliché, but if we listen to the preparation advice we are given, things would be more bearable.
Nkiru, Sunrise, Florida

Always be prepared! And I think the local governments should have some sort of disaster funding. The local government really DROPPED the ball on this one! From the Governor, Mayor, all the way down the line they messed up! Also, this goes to show we as Americans put WAY too much faith in our federal government to take care of these issues. But we as Americans should be prepared TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES if the need arises! I support our president 100 percent. But he is ONLY ONE man! And he has a lot of people to answer too also! Local and state governments need to get their heads out of the bayous and take care of their people!
Tina Hough, Atoka, Tennessee

Make sure you elect competent local officials. Things wouldn't have been so bad if Blanco had followed her own plan and ordered the mandatory evacuation on Saturday instead of Sunday. Then, our governor made things worse by refusing to send in our own national guard to restore order to New Orleans, and refusing for nearly a week to accept military aid from other states or the feds.
Andrew Nash, Slidell, Louisiana

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