Emergency Management: Social Dimensions of Disaster
The mankind lives in a world of natural, technological, social, and other hazards that often threaten health and life of the people. Every day, newspapers, radio, and TV report about the latest accidents or natural disasters, which have led to the injury and death of the people. At the same time, social and manmade disasters cannot be predicted contrary to the natural ones that occur regularly. However, in comparison to the manmade disasters, natural phenomena are inevitable since they relate to the natural processes occurring in the geographical envelope of the Earth. One of the most dangerous disasters are hurricanes, tropical cyclones or low pressure weather systems that occur over the warm sea surface and are accompanied by strong thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and gale force winds. Similar to all of the natural phenomena, the hurricane can be predicted, cannot be avoided, and threatens health and life of the people.
However, the threat of a hurricane for human life depends not only on the nature of this process but also on the willingness of the community to ensure its safety. Therefore, the following work is dedicated to the development of the disaster plan for the coastal community that is to be hit by a Category 2 hurricane in 72 hours, which addresses the problems of its preparation for the disaster as well as the recovery from its consequences.
Hurricane is a highly destructive wind of a long duration. It primarily occurs due to the sudden changes in atmospheric pressure, receiving the energy from lifting up the moist air, condensation of water vapor in the form of rain, and the lowering of a drier air, which is obtained during this process. The speed of a hurricane reaches 30 meters per second or more. By taking into consideration its harmful effects, a hurricane can be compared to an earthquake due to the fact that it harbors a colossal amount of energy. In particular, the average power generated by a hurricane in one hour can be compared with the energy of a nuclear explosion.
Hurricane can seize a territory in diameter to several hundred kilometers and is capable of traveling thousands of kilometers. It destroys lightweight structures, demolishes and ravages grain fields, breaks wires and brings down power line pylons and communication towers, damages highways and bridges, breaks and uproots trees, and causes accidents on the communal energy networks. Hurricanes are also often accompanied by torrential rains that cause flooding.
There are several ways to define the destructive power of a hurricane. Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used for that purpose in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. In this area, the National Hurricane Center (Atlantic and Eastern Pacific basins) and Central Pacific Hurricane Center (North-Central Pacific basin) are responsible for tropical cyclone warnings. In these ocean basins, tropical cyclones with a maximum sustained wind speed of 38 miles per hour (34 knots or 17.2 meters per second) are classified as tropical depressions. The next group includes tropical cyclones with wind speed of 73 miles per hour, which usually receive names and are defined as tropical storms. In case the tropical storm continues to grow and reaches even higher speed, it is classified as a hurricane.
Saffir-Simpson scale has five categories of hurricanes, with the Category 1 being characterized by the weakest wind power and the Category 5 by the largest one. The strongest tropical cyclones with wind speed reaching 111 miles per hour (96 knots or 49 meters per second) are classified as Category 2 hurricane, being considered an extremely dangerous wind, causing extensive damage. By taking into account that the community is about to face this type of hurricane, it is necessary to provide certain information about its destructive capabilities. In particular, it damages trees and shrubs (often to the point when they fall down) and destroys prefabricated houses. In the coastal areas, Category 2 hurricane considerably damages piers and marinas, with small boats parked there being torn from their anchors. It should be noted that such hurricanes may also cause big waves on the sea surface, storm surges, and tornadoes. At the same time, a hurricane may occur and maintain its power only over the surface of large bodies of water while over land it quickly loses it. As a result, the coastal areas and islands are primarily affected by the devastation caused by a hurricane while inland regions remain relatively safe.
Thus, by possessing the knowledge of the features of a Category 2 hurricane, it is possible to develop a comprehensive disaster plan that will address the problems of preparation to it as well as the recovery from its consequences.
First, it is necessary to confirm that the hurricane is imminent, i.e. it will definitely reach the coastal community. Therefore, it is required to create the so-called Hurricane Watch, a team of specialists constantly monitoring the movement of the hurricane, its strength, and speed. This goal can be achieved by using the data presented by either National Hurricane Center or Central Pacific Hurricane Center, as well as the information gathered by the Hurricane Watch through observation. In case the hurricane is imminent, it is required to notify the community that the first phase of the disaster plan has started and commence the evacuation of the residents.
The primary method of evacuation will be the combined one as it meets the requirements of efficiency most fully. It suggests the evacuation of a maximum possible amount of people on foot with the simultaneous removal of the remaining residents with available transport. Vehicles should be used primarily for transporting the children, the sick people, women, and the elderly people. Alerting the population of the evacuation is to be carried out through local and automated systems for centralized alerts, local television, and radio stations. Each company, establishment, and educational institution will be assigned to one or several temporal settlements. The process of the evacuation and its implementation is to be guided by the evacuation commissions created at the facilities and in the residential areas. In large industrial facilities and residential areas, it is needed to organize evacuation centers, primarily on the basis of schools, clubs, and other similar facilities.
According to Pinkowski, the objectives of the evacuation centers include:
- The notification and gathering of the population;
- The registration and training of people to the evacuation;
- The formation of transport columns;
- The organization of medical aid for the sick people;
- The provision of shelter to the people attending the evacuation centers;
- The conduction of sanitary and anti-epidemic measures in the area of deployment of the evacuation centers.
A number is assigned to each evacuation center. In addition, the nearest objects as well as housing and communal services, the population of which will be evacuated through the evacuation center, are attributed to it.
In addition, it is required to ensure the safety of the marina. In particular, it is necessary to inspect all the boats present there, mark their engines, and move them to the ground stands. To prevent the boats to be damaged by the hurricane, it is required to anchor them by using helical anchors and strap them both to each other and the outside racks of the ground stands.
First of all, it is needed to determine if the forecast concerning the imminence of the hurricane has not changed. In case it is so, it is necessary to overlook the evacuation process to make sure it is in the full swing. In addition, a thorough inspection of the pier and marina as well as the residential area should be conducted. In particular, there is a need to check them for the presence of materials that could be blown away by the hurricane, namely furniture, flags, etc. All these objects are to be removed and relocated inside the buildings, as well as secured with straps. The dry and weak trees in the area are to be cut down to avoid their falling in case of a hurricane. The files and computers belonging to governmental and public organizations are to be removed from the premises to the protected storage and encased in plastic cases to avoid the corruption and loss of the essential data. Finally, it is necessary to fuel and check all the vehicles that will take part in the recovery operations.
Again, it is required to determine if the forecast concerning the imminence of the hurricane has not changed. By that time, the residents of the area must be evacuated. Thus, it is necessary to conduct the final investigation of the pier, marina, and the residential area to make sure everything is secured. The power throughout the area must be turned off to avoid the emergence of short circuit which can lead to fire. After the confirmation of all residents leaving the area, it is required to secure the doors of the major buildings and premises and post the emergency phone contact numbers on them. The final operation of the third phase is the relocation of the personnel involved in the preparation of the area for the hurricane, which are to be instructed not to return to the emergency zone until directed.
After the hurricane, it is necessary to implement a set of recovery measures to bring the life of a coastal community back to normal. In particular, rescue and other urgent works on liquidation of the consequences of hurricane include:
- In the terms of the organization and provision of search, rescue, and the other urgent works:
- the exploration of regions, zones, sites, and objects to conduct urgent works on (primarily in the coastal area which has sustained a direct impact of a hurricane);
- the definition and location of the emergency zones;
- the elimination of harmful factors and hazards arising from the emergency zone (fire, debris, etc.) that make it impossible to conduct rescue operations or the reduction of their negative impact to the lowest possible level;
- the organization and management of rescue and the other urgent activities.
- In the terms of rescue works:
- the conduction of the general search and rescue of the victims of the hurricane, providing them with emergency medical care and overseeing their transportation to medical facilities if necessary;
- the search for the possible victims of the hurricane within the defined emergency zone and their deblocking if needed;
- the relocation of victims to the safe areas.
- In the terms of medical and psychological aid:
- the provision of medical aid to the population affected by the hurricane and the organization of its treatment;
- the provision of sanitary and epidemiological welfare in the emergency zone, as well as the places of temporary accommodation of the population affected by the hurricane;
- the provision of psychological and material assistance to the affected population;
- medical and psychological rehabilitation of the victims.
- In the terms of recovery works:
- the prioritization of repairing and restoring of the damaged public infrastructure, transport, communications, etc;
- the implementation of social protection of the population affected by the hurricane, namely the conduction of humanitarian activities;
- the restoration of work of the critical infrastructure utilities, e.g. water, gas, and electricity;
- the burial of corpses;
- the conduction of the other works and measures (rubble removal, garbage utilization and disposal, and the deblocking of residential areas).
It should be noted that the emergency rescue and the other urgent works are to be carried out according to the order and sequence determined by the relevant instructions, rules, statutes, and the other regulations concerning the emergencies. The repairing and restoring of the damaged public infrastructure are to be conducted as soon as possible and repeated continuously up to their full completion with the use of any means available, as well as the strict compliance with the security norms to prevent the situation from getting out of control. In addition, the conduction of rescue and other urgent operations must involve the required amount of the civil defense forces. However, in case the negative impact of the hurricane exceeds the forecasts, it is possible to involve the local population as well as the public organizations in the process of the implementation of the abovementioned recovery measures, namely the humanitarian activities and the restoration of the damaged public infrastructure.
Psychological and Sociological Aspects
The psychological and sociological aspects of the Category 2 hurricane are to be considered during the development of the disaster plan. However, it should be noted that they are characterized with a certain degree of dynamics, depending on the stage of the disaster. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze them before, during, and after the disaster to avoid panic and other potential abnormalities.
Prior to the disaster, the members of the community may be prone to panic. In particular, it can be expressed in an increase in the crime level, the emergence of decadent moods in the community, and the excessive demand for food. By taking into account the latter is unlikely to be met in the short terms, many people will be frantically buying the products during the next two or three days before the hurricane. Given the high possibility of the hurricane damaging the public infrastructure in the emergency zone, primarily the logistic channels, it is possible to assume that such panic will result in the significant delay of food delivery to the area after the disaster. Another aspect to consider is the fluctuating level of trust in local authorities that are involved in carrying out the disaster plan. Depending on the situation, it may disrupt the process of evacuation. For example, during the Hurricane Sandy of 2012, some residents of apartment buildings in the West End, New York City, have refused to evacuate. As a result, they have spent a few days without electricity, food, and water, with detached elevators and gas. Moreover, such people are much more likely to become the victims of a hurricane, which is a heavy loss for the community, as well as a stain on the reputation of the local authorities that could not organize the evacuation properly.
During the disaster, the other psychological and sociological aspects come into play. In particular, irrespective of the degree of damage caused by a hurricane, it is primarily characterized by the intensity of the traumatic effects it has on humans. It can be determined by a combination of the five criteria:
- the occurrence of adverse situations that cause distress in the life of humans and in the community as a whole;
- the causation of material damage which significantly changed the human environment;
- a significant number of victims that died or were injured, as well as homeless people with severe physical injuries and mental suffering;
- the destruction of the local funds meant for rescue and protection;
- the suspension of the provision of services that were normally provided by the community (housing, production, distribution and consumption of energy, water, food, medical services, transportation, communications, public order, and even the burial of the dead).
It should be remembered that each victim of a hurricane has not only his/her personal but also the collective (a sense of belonging to the community) ego threatened. Thus, the personal misfortune becomes a collective one, providing the better opportunities for organizing the people.
After the disaster, namely during the recovery period, special attention should be paid to the psychological state both of the staff of the emergency services and the victims of a hurricane. In particular, numerous surveys indicate that rescue teams found the most significant changes caused by the disaster to be in their mental state. About 98% of the surveyed said they have experienced fear and horror of what they saw, 62% of them have pointed to a sense of confusion and weakness in the limbs. In 20% of the cases, the people’s state on arrival at the emergency station was described as lightheadedness. By retrospectively assessing their health during the emergency rescue operations, all respondents reported numerous complaints that have prevailed even during the rest, such as dizziness, headache, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. About 55% of the surveyed have complained of insomnia, difficulty in falling asleep, sleepiness during the day, interrupted sleep accompanied by nightmares, increased irritability, and depressed mood. About 10% of the hurricane victims have shown moderately hypertensive reactions and tachycardia. In 22% of the cases, there was a decline in the carpal dynamometry by 25-30% in comparison with the results that are normal for this age group. The estimated reduction of performance during the first hours after arriving at the emergency station was about 50%.
Thus, the process of addressing the emergencies should involve a number of specialists in various fields, with psychologists being the most significant among them. They are to provide both the rescuers and the victims with psychological support during the emergency response and at the stage of rehabilitation after the remediation.
The purpose of the work was not only to describe such natural phenomenon as a hurricane and develop a disaster plan, but to let people know the importance of methods of disaster prevention and safety measures to be undertaken to save their life and those of their loved ones. It is clear that very few people are familiar with the principles of development of catastrophic processes, predicting crises, and creating the mechanisms for the prevention of disasters. It is necessary to ensure that these measures have been understood by the people, moved into everyday life, and reflected in the policy and people’s attitudes. Otherwise, the state and society will be unable to work together during the disaster, which will result in the failure of any disaster plan. This will lead to the situation that many people will not follow the disaster plan requirements, will ignore the warnings about the dangers of a hurricane or another natural phenomenon, and will not take any steps to save themselves (or make erroneous actions). Therefore, the major task of the 21st century is the formation of worldwide mass culture of safety in the face of natural disasters.