Beriwal is a native of Calcutta, India, who came to the U.S. 25 years ago. After earning a master's degree in urban planning, she gained a reputation in Louisiana as an expert in disaster preparation. Like many others in similar roles, Beriwal feels a measure of guilt when watching the images of flood victims. Sheís also aware that some of the tragedy was because of the "disaster sub-culture" of any populationwhich is a certain level of resistance to pre-storm evacuation. Some people simply wonít evacuate.
Itís worth noting that I.E.M.'s Pam preparedness plan, which FEMA contracted for almost $1 million, helped 80 percent of the population of the New Orleans area evacuate before Katrina made landfall on August 29thone of the highest rates ever for a hurricane. But more than 100,000 people didnít escape the city boundariesmostly citizens without cars. Thatís because there werenít enough buses available in time, a problem for which disaster preparedness planners hadnít apparently accounted.
Beriwal says, in her defense, that the Pam Plan had never been fully implementedthat it was just the first version and that they had not yet addressed critical areas of response such as security and communication. Critics say that even the parts of the Pam Plan that were used to didnít hold up to the chaos after the storm. For Beriwal the marathoner, time had run out.