At 5 AM on August 29, 2005, the largest drainage canal in New Orleans, the 17th Street Canal, was breached by torrents of water, an hour before Hurricane Katrina struck the city.
Levees and floodwalls fell in 50 different locations, flooding 80% of the city – under 15 feet of water in some parts.
No doubt the system failed. But which system?
The Bush administration claimed the break couldn’t have been foreseen. Scientists claimed they’d given warnings about that exact situation for nearly ten years previous. The US Army Corps of Engineers blamed the city; the city blamed the engineers.
It could be said – and many have – that in this case, it wasn’t the levee system that failed that day, but the human system certainly did. Later, experts determined that budget cuts, outdated engineering, and inadequate process infrastructures are what led to the disaster.
But that was 2005, and something of that magnitude couldn’t blindside us again.
At Process Street, we’ve been paying very close attention to the different responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. This post is going to look at seven of the most notable system failures that occurred during the pandemic, why they happened, and how they could have been prevented.
- Why do systems fail?
- What have been the biggest COVID-19 system failures so far?
- How to (easily) build a fail-proof systems
Let’s get started.