Term Paper: Disaster Emergency Management

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Disaster Management

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanic activity cause extensive loss to life and property. They can impact the economy and the prosperity of the region tremendously. In recent times, the extent of damage from a natural disaster was evident when Hurricane Wilma, Katherine and Emily hit the U.S. In 2005.

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.) makes provisions for federal funds to be provided on a high priority basis to help mitigate hazards at local levels. In addition, the act also calls for identification and assessment of natural disasters that can disrupt the normal functioning of governments and communities, and adversely affect individuals and families with great severity. The act defines an "Emergency" as any occasion or instant for which, in the determination of the President, federal assistance is needed to supplement state and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States. (FEMA.gov, 2003)

Many states have been working towards defining and creating an emergency plan for disaster preparedness, warning and relief. The Governor of each state can recommend to the President local governments in the state that may need to set up an emergency plan for disaster relief. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 mandated that each state's Governor appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). Some of the key factors that the States have to include in their plans are methods that they will use to prepare for a disaster. This includes the type of public alarm and warning systems that a State might use. The use of modern technology and know-how to help identify and evaluate the conditions that are most conducive for a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane to occur is important. In addition, expert manpower infrastructure is also required to help determine and provide the necessary warning when required and with sufficient lead times to enable evacuation from the region. The best option available in these types of situation is to train and educate people about the disaster. (USGS.gov, 2001)

It is hoped that this study can help offer a clear and concise overview of the problem as it exists and the options that are available to companies to manage and prevent disasters, whenever possible. It is practically impossible to comprehensively evaluate and eliminate many types of disaster, especially natural disasters. Developing advance-warning systems however, can at the least prevent extensive loss to life and in some cases precautionary measures can be undertaken to prevent damages to property.

Tornado trend analysis

Tornadoes are an "unfortunate fact of life" in the Midwest. Referred to commonly as Tornado Alley, this region extends from Northern Texas to South Dakota. and, every region has been affected at some point or the other by a violet tornado. This paper will study the effect of Tornados on Texas and the -disaster-preparedness methods that the Texas Government has undertaken to reduce the damage to life and property.

Historical weather patterns

Texas experiences the tornado season between March and May. And the threat of tornadoes never completely disappears in other parts of the year. Tornadoes are generally a part of severe thunderstorms. "Thunderstorms develop in warm moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. In the Texas panhandle, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows "upslope" toward higher terrain." (NOAA, Tornadoes, 2007) Tornadoes are commonplace in Texas, more so than in any other state of the U.S.

Scientists opine that the change in wind direction, and an increase in wind speed, creates a horizontal spinning of the air in the lower atmosphere. An updraft gradually shifts this horizontal spinning into a vertical spinning motion. Tornadoes generally tend to move from southwest to northeast, but they can change direction at anytime based on wind speed and direction.

It is vital to note that while flying debris is the most significant danger in a tornado, there are other equally deadly conditions that can make these storms very dangerous. Lighting strikes, flash floods, hail and high winds can also be very destructive and can easily occur simultaneously along with the tornado. Tornadoes move at speeds between 10- 20 miles per hour but they can travel faster at times. One fact however, is that they do not move over great distances and rarely travel more than six miles. (National_Geographic, 2007)

Geographical region

While tornadoes generally occur in plains, they are not restricted to these regions and can occur even in mountains. In 1980, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a wave of destruction in its path. The United States generally is the most active place for tornadoes and experiences and average of about 1000 tornado touchdowns per year. The area of central U.S. allows cold, dry, polar air from Canada to meet warm, moist, tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico during spring and summer creating a very unstable air mass. Tornadoes form at the front where these two air masses meet. While tornadoes are generally cause by severe thunderstorms, they can also result from hurricanes where the air mass is also spinning or rotating.

Tornadoes generally occur in the afternoon and evening hours, with a minimum frequency around dawn. (NOAA, 2006) c) Possible destructive outcomes

Theodore Fujita ranked tornadoes based on the damage that tornadoes inflict along their path. Referred to as the Fujita scale or the F-scale it ranks from F0 to a theoretical F6. There are significant concerns about this scale: it only measures the destruction. Therefore, a really strong and intense tornado could travel over open farm land and be classified an F0, but a relatively modest tornado could cause heavy destruction in a densely populated area and be rated an F5. Approximate wind speeds stated within the F. scale are generally estimates and in reality the speed has never been clocked. (NOAA, Fujita Tornado Damage Scale, 2007)

Scientists speculate that the wind speed can differ significantly at different heights within the cone creating different level of damage patterns over the tornado travels. There can be very small, intense single-vortex tornadoes that can inflict significant damage to the area or there can be a multi-vortex tornado that might distribute the power of the spinning air over larger distances. Normal, everyday objects can become dangerous projectiles when air borne and can be carried through very long distances dues to the significant wind speeds and the spinning motion of the funnel cloud. Car, train and even bridges can be easily carried off in the wind of the tornado. Poor information and faulty precaution can often cause more harm. On average, tornadoes kill about 60 people per year -most from flying or falling (crushing) debris.

III. Confirmation of fatalities and injuries

Humans have learnt to live with disasters. We have also become skilled at understanding the risks and the shortcomings of different situations. "New risks worry us more than old ones," and people are more adept at living with old and well-known risks when compared to new ones. (Achenbach, 2004) a) Planning plan for rendering aid before, during and after the disaster is also important. Correct information should be provided by the disaster relief agencies to the public. Wrong information to the public may result in a panic scare and may not be helpful when a disaster really occurs. Safe structures like churches, schools and public buildings should be accessible in cases of emergencies. The public should also be informed about the dangers of using bridges, tunnels and ferry services during a disaster.

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes do not have long warning times and scientist and meteorologist can only offer best guess estimates of potential dangers based on the manner in which they assume the air mass is behaving. The very uncertainty of the development of tornadoes makes them difficult to predict and pin point.

Personnel who deal with the emergency planning should have the expertise to model and simulate the disaster using computer software to determine the effectiveness of the plan. Many modern software packages are used in conjunction with each other to determine the validity and effectiveness of the plan. All the variables and parameters affect the plan have to be evaluated to determine their direct and indirect impact. A chain of command and information flow channels should also be set up.

It may help to have a decentralized control location in order to ensure that if the disaster directly affects one area there is sufficient redundancy built into the plan to take care of the situation. However, there should be more than one center, preferably located at different locations in the city or county. All these centers should be linked to the main center via, television, radio and satellite. Each center should have personnel in-charge of the complete operation. The second and third person in command… [END OF PREVIEW]

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