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The devastation and dislocation of individuals experienced throughout the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has raised concern about both the charitable sector's and the government's abilities to effectively respond to such disasters. To strengthen future disaster response and recovery operations, the government needs to understand what went right and what went wrong, and to apply these lessons. The National Response Plan outlines the roles of federal agencies and charities in response to national disasters. Recognizing the historically large role of charities in responding to disasters, the plan included charities as signatories and gave them considerable responsibilities. In addition to carrying out the responsibilities outlined in the National Response Plan, charities served as partners to the federal government in providing both immediate and long-term assistance following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. GAO was asked to provide an overview of lessons learned from charities' response to previous disasters as well as preliminary observations about the role of charities following the Gulf Coast hurricanes. As part of our ongoing work, GAO will continue to analyze federal and charitable efforts following the hurricanes.

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