After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans’ hurricane protection was improved to withstand a 1/100 per year hurricane. This paper quantifies the risk to life in post-Katrina New Orleans. When compared to risks of other large-scale engineering systems (e.g. other flood prone areas, dams and the nuclear sector) and acceptable risk criteria, results indicate the risk to life is significant. Results and methods of this study can inform future flood protection management and risk communication.