Social Dimensions of Disaster Essay Example

Hurricanes are very intense storms, which are created over water, especially in oceans, and then shift towards the neighboring land. They are categorized into five types according to their wind damage potential, central pressure and the velocity of the wind. Category 5, 4, and 3 are major hurricanes considering the scale since they have high wind speeds that cause great destructions. Category 1 and 2 are not as destructive as other major storms but can still result into the demolition of properties and wounds to individuals. These types of natural disasters have an effect on inland and coastal regions. However, the latter are the most affected ones because they are closer to the oceans than the mainland areas. The primary hazards associated with hurricanes include storm surges, rip currents, cyclones, inland flooding, severe rainfalls, as well as high winds. Due to the destructive effects of hurricanes, countries should have programs for preparing their citizens for a potential occurrence of such disasters. This paper evaluates how a community that lives in the coastal region should react to a storm warning. It will further discuss the recovery process after the storm has hit the area. As an Emergency Management Director in the region, it is important to offer the community 24, 48, and 72-hour plans during the emergency. Moreover, it is necessary to provide possible evacuation approaches before the disaster. Finally, the paper highlights sociological and psychological aspects just before, amid, as well as after the catastrophe.

Early Preparation

The coastal community must prepare for a possible occurrence of a hurricane in the region within 72 hours. The tragedy may cause the interruption of services like gas, transportation, communications, and power, injuries and deaths of animals and people, and the demolition of buildings (Hamilton, 2012). Animal and human injuries are mainly brought about by collapsing buildings or structures from flooding, storm surge, and high winds. Therefore, preparation is significant to reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and destructions. A preparation plan should be elaborated and divided into three phases of 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours before the hurricane hits the coastal region. Besides, the process entails evacuation arrangements to evade the disaster.

Preparation Within 72 Hours

72 hours before the hurricane, most of the conditions are not known certainty except a hurricane alert. This phase may require the senior management in the Emergency Management Department to assess the existing and the predicted hurricane path. They should also ensure that all response preparation measures are set in motion, including the last arrangements. The team should continue highlighting general methods and the readiness of the whole community. All hurricane preparation plans and emergency strategies are laid down. The team may start examining the weather from different media sources from time to time. Moreover, the department needs to ensure that all households in the community have enough supplies of water, food and fuel to use during the disaster period. Since most people in the region will not be working during this time, an adequate food supply is necessary. At this point, the department can discuss plans to clear the ground from all debris, dead limbs, loose materials, and equipment and uproot all weak trees together with the local population (Nardo, 2009). These activities are imperative since such materials may result into injuries during the hurricane. Households have to make sure that they have the latest phone numbers for receiving fuel, water, food emergency generator suppliers, and any other support responses. During the 72-hour duration, support responses may be needed any time since the community will be mostly indoors.

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Other plans during the 72-hour phase include providing community hospitals with adequate oxygen as well as fuel supplies. Injuries are common during catastrophes, and hospitals should be fully prepared to handle high numbers of casualties to prevent possible deaths. The hospital staff must be equipped with necessary tools and equipment to undertake their duties appropriately. All hospital phones should be working in case of any emergencies affecting the coastal community. Furthermore, the latter ought to ensure their family readiness. Structures and homes will be blocked by sandbags filled and put suitably (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). Lastly, the emergency department must be fully equipped, and the IT staff should guarantee that all Command Center phones are working. Briefings need to be held on a regular basis to discuss the changing weather conditions and evacuation plans.

Preparation Within 48 Hours

The second phase of the preparation process is the 48-hour plan before the hurricane. The latter is just two days before it hits the area, and the community is to make the final preparations. The hurricane poses a considerable threat to the area, and the catastrophe path remains unpredictable. The emergency team should be holding meetings to assess new weather conditions to brief the community if necessary. Some of the team members can disperse in different parts of the region to help the community in securing their buildings from the hurricane (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). The activities of protecting homes may involve giving them sandbags to to prevent heavy flooding waters. Besides, house items are supposed to be moved to one section of the house. Food and water supplies should also be kept in a safe place in a house, where every member of the family can access them prior to the disaster.

Furthermore, all drainage systems around homes should be clear to ease the flow of water to avert flooding. Poor drainage contributes a lot to flooding being dangerous as it carries debris and may drown people or animals. Clearing the drains involves unblocking any blocked systems and collecting all items around the houses. There are circumstances that will require people to shield themselves from strong winds caused by the tornado. Therefore, families ought to start recognizing protective spots around their homes. Such locations may include small rooms that do not have windows like a closet or a bathroom located on the lowly sides of houses. Every member of the family should practice taking cover in a shielding location rapidly.

Institutions like schools need to be closed for all students to be able to join their families before the storm. Hospitals can discharge all patients who are not severely ill and can recuperate at homes. This strategy aims to create more space in the local hospitals in anticipation of possible casualties. The hospital management will divide the hospital staff into groups for proper coordination during the disaster. Each group expected to be on duty during the catastrophe will be informed to go to work as soon as the emergency management department in the area gives a warning. They will then be discharged from obligations 24 hours preceding the disaster to deal with individual needs and come back to their separate organizations before the typhoon hits the region (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). Additionally, the emergency team in the area will start releasing weather alerts to the community as soon as it receives them from meteorologists.
Evacuation strategies should start 48 hours before the hurricane strikes. The authorities and emergency management teams should purpose to evacuate as many residents as possible from dangerous locations (Stein, Dueñas-Osorio, & Subramanian, 2010). Consequently, all risky areas that are located in the hurricane’s path will be identified. The general population is urged to act to their greatest advantage and willfully clear high-risk regions before a suggested evacuation. In the event if one intends to evacuate, he or she should leave ahead of schedule, as it will be prudent before the typhoon winds and hurricane surges cause road blockages. Leaving early may likewise help the people to maintain a strategic distance from massive traffic jams experienced later during an evacuation. Sitting in front of the television and listening to the radio is hence significant to get the most recent reports about the tornado.

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Most of the time, three phases of evacuation are carried out in areas prone to hurricanes and other catastrophes (Dixit, 2008). The first step involves moving those people who reside in parts that are the most susceptible to the results of storm water and winds. They include people on boats, in low-lying regions and islands, offshore employees, and those in need of special medical attention. This phase is mostly undertaken starting from 50 hours ahead of the hurricane. The second stage focuses on residents of risky areas like those in flood-prone parts, low-lying regions, and those living in manufactured houses such as mobile homes. In addition, all persons residing outside levee protection are considered during this stage. It starts 40 hours or less before the hurricane hits the region. The final phase of evacuation is the most serious and takes place 30 hours before the disaster. The emergency team collaborating with the local authority should stress an evacuation and restrict access to risky regions. The establishment of contra-flow lanes is done at this phase to redirect traffic. The routes used during the evacuation will be secured as the hurricane nears the vulnerable area.

The community people evacuating the region need to be well prepared before they leave their homes. They should pack some of their most valuable items in bags. Parents ought to gather their children, pets, livestock, and any other animals ready to move. Medical equipment, medicines, hearing aids, eyeglasses, power cords, and batteries should also be taken, as they are very vital. All relevant documents such as school and insurance certificates whether in hard or soft copies must be the first things to pack (Dixit, 2008). Moreover, items for personal needs like the first aid kit, cash, credit cards, ATMs, clothing, water, and food are to be included in the bag. Finally, there are priceless things with an emotional attachment such as mementos and pictures, which should not be left behind during the evacuation procedure.

Preparation Within 24 Hours

The third stage of the preparation process is a 24-hour plan before the storm in the coastal area. Before this stage, almost all persons in high-risk locations have already been evacuated. A few people remaining will be evacuated within 24 hours. Those in low-risk areas who are not evacuating will also take precautionary measures to reduce or eliminate damages and injuries. Such measures include but not limited to staying in houses, but away from any glass doors and windows. Strong winds during the hurricane lead to flying debris that may be deadly if they hit people. Unnecessary lights should be put off since the storm interferes with electricity and can be dangerous. However, using candles is discouraged as well as it can cause fires. If in darkness, one should use flashlights because they are safer. The emergency management team should ensure that all vehicles to be used during emergencies are fuelled. All local hospitals should be ready, and the staff who will be working during the storm should go back to the hospital. Lastly, people can communicate with their friends and families to avoid overwhelming the telephone system once the hurricane hits (Schaefer-Jones, 2007).

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Recovery Process

Another primary process that is required in the event of a disaster is assisting the community in recovering after the hurricane is over. The process of disaster recovery is a combination of different activities that take place ahead of, amid, and after the catastrophe. The disaster recovery procedure usually starts prior to the occurrence of the hurricane. This phase is known as preparedness, and the community equips itself with all necessary things to cope with the aftereffects of the hurricane during evacuation, warning, and sheltering (Hamilton, 2012). Furthermore, such activities as the removal of debris, organization of volunteers, donations and utility restoration are regular in high-risk regions. Such recovery plans before the disaster lead to a reduction of the effects of the hurricane and post-recovery procedures.

Most of the time, post-calamity recovery takes place in two stages, that is, long-term and short-term. The latter comprises searches and rescue, utility restoration, debris clearance, public information and damage assessments. Long-term recuperation starts when the local community begins to repair and restore streets, extensions, homes, as well as stores. This period also entails changes and improvements, for example, fortifying construction standards, zoning assignments, changing area utilization, progressing transportation passages and considering affordable housing (Schaefer-Jones, 2007). A majority of changes and improvements occur at this stage whether they are well thought-out before the disaster or not. The long-term recovery process aims at decreasing the number of fatalities during subsequent catastrophes.

Psychological and Sociological Impacts of the Hurricane

From the moment a hurricane warning is issued in a particular region like the coastal area, some people will be affected sociologically and psychologically. Psychological aspects are those that affect the community emotionally. Before the hurricane hits the region, nearly everyone will be stressed due to the fear of losing one’s life or his or her property. Others may be anxious since they are not sure they will reunite with their family and friends after the storm. Panic attacks are common during this period, and it is characterized by extreme fear and psychological arousal. Furthermore, one thinks that he or she is about to die expressing hopelessness, uncertainty, and the feeling of severe environmental restriction (Fink, 2010). Different individuals will experience various symptoms such as vertigo, sweating, nausea, hyperventilation, cardiac palpitations, and bradycardia.

During the actual occurrence of the disaster, psychological effects may include panic attacks. Some people may be unable to contain themselves and start running from safe locations. Such scenarios will cause injuries or even deaths since going outside the buildings is perilous. Persons may experience irregular heart rhythms, rise in blood pressure or gastrointestinal problems. Events in which people wet, particularly children, are common during a hurricane due to fear. Other people may be so distressed because of strong winds that shake the buildings that they commit a suicide (Fink, 2010).

The worst psychological effects among people in risky regions occur after the disaster because some have lost their loved ones and property worth a lot. One of the most common is post-traumatic stress, which may include nightmares, evading and withdrawal reactions and physical arousal reactions. The second effect is traumatic grief, which is described as distress that a person undergoes after losing a relative or a friend in a traumatic way, such as a hurricane. Such people cannot grieve properly as they concentrate on death’s circumstances regularly. Depression is also a very common psychological impact of the hurricane that influences its survivors. Its symptoms can incorporate discouraged temperament, diminished enthusiasm for exercises, change in rest patterns or appetite, weakness, and emotions of misery and uselessness (Fink, 2010). Undesirable changes, delayed pain, and misfortune are clearly identified with the buildup of post-catastrophe dissatisfaction.

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Some young people and grown-ups may encounter self-destructive contemplations, which is a noteworthy issue that ought to be considered important to avert a self-hurting conduct. Someone who is undergoing such symptoms is advised to seek medical and counseling help promptly. Physical effects such as headaches may also be experienced even without physical harm (Fink, 2010).
The impact of social factors before a tragedy hits a region is inevitable since social ties will be broken. For instance, family members may be separated during the evacuation process, especially if they do not live in the same region. School-going children, work colleagues, and neighbors are also divided at this period (Thomas, Phillips, Lovekamp, & Fothergill, 2013). Social ties are further broken during the hurricane as some people die, and others are caught up in the debris. Communicating with the loved ones during the catastrophe is almost impossible as telephone lines are overwhelmed, and one cannot leave the house. Social connections are vital because they are important components of society. The community finds it difficult to recover even after the hurricane effects have been reduced. After the storm, social relationships suffer greatly since people are scattered all over the country. Children who lose their parents or guardians are often placed in foster homes. It breaks the ties among siblings further. There are cases of people who get lost after the disaster despite the rescue efforts by the local authorities. Others cannot relate with their families and friends because of their post-disaster traumas. Institutions like churches, schools, and business organizations are also affected negatively by the events (Thomas, Phillips, Lovekamp, & Fothergill, 2013). Consequently, the community ought to undertake all efforts necessary to restore the broken social ties since they will affect even the economic aspect of the country.

In conclusion, hurricanes affect all aspects of a community life, whether social or economic. As a result, the preparedness of the community before the region is stricken by the disaster is essential. The preparation process should include phases of 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours. Activities undertaken by the community during this period may include an evacuation, securing buildings, and keeping food and water supplies safe. The recovery process involves procedures of helping society make progress after the catastrophe. The community can also identify useful efforts that could have reduced fatalities in the recovery process. Reconstructing homes, roads, and other social amenities occurs in this period. Finally, people are affected socially and psychologically by the events that occur during a hurricane. Since the whole community is impacted negatively, there is the need to reduce such effects.