A poorly planned or disorganized evacuation process can make an emergency situation even worse than it is. While planning an evacuation, it is very important to keep in mind that most people are in a state of panic. Therefore, it will be difficult to ensure everybody’s evacuation . Although, a predicted disaster might provide time for planning and implementing an evacuation. Preparing a coastal community that it is about to be hit by a Category 2 hurricane in 72 hours would be a demanding task. How demanding it will be also depends on the population of the community, in relation to reachable evacuation route(s), and evacuation facilities available for such an emergency. This essay will provide an evacuation plan and stages of its implementation by a local Emergency Management Director, whose community is 72 hours away from being hit by a Category 2 hurricane. The paper will describe how the community would be addressed and prepared for the evacuation/recovery processes. It will also discuss evacuation strategies and sociological and psychological impact of the disaster before, while, and after its occurrence. The paper will discuss in detail your development of disaster plan for your town, city or agency.
The first thing to do is to calm down and organize the evacuation process in order to create the chain of command and appoint appropriate people and agencies to locations and respective duties. It is also necessary to make sure that people are always aware of life-saving information, regardless of their ignorance as a hindering factor. Achieving this seems almost impossible because one cannot force people to read a sign or noticeboard, even if it is of great importance to their well-being. Therefore, the first approach to pre-disaster informing processes is to develop information strategies that will definitely catch attention of the target audience. Disasters occur in different forms and sometimes they are unexpected, but sometimes they can be predicted. Therefore, it is necessary that the Emergency Management Department prepare for any type of disaster aiming at saving lives in the first place.
An effective evacuation plan will definitely require forming different classes of citizens in a particular community during their evacuation and planning and organizing all of its stages. An evacuation plan must contain different evacuation procedures for these different groups of citizens; senior citizens, nursing mothers and their infants, toddlers, adolescents, and adults. Reunions of the families can be achieved very easily if their members are rescued together or at about the same time. An evacuation route is the first thing that comes to mind during the first hours of a predicted hurricane. Some families that happen to be together at the time of the hurricane prediction could begin to pick up needed and valuable belongings and head for a place where they might feel safe. Therefore, in is of high importance that people be informed about evacuation routes in advance.
As discussed earlier, a disaster could be natural or man-made. Obviously, not all natural disasters can be foreseen or accurately predicted. However, the Emergency Management Department has to be prepared for any situation in order to save lives and probably property, when it is possible to do so, in a timely and efficient manner. Natural disasters are very common and most of them are predictable. In this regard, it is also necessary to take precaution measures and provide people with appropriate information resources. In case of a disaster, chaos and panic, which are usually associated with such situations, make it even harder for rescuers, families, and potential victims to reach one another. Therefore, it is logical to assume that a group of people that is well informed about safety precautions would be easier to rescue than an uninformed or underinformed one. It is quite ironic that sales signs and product advertisements are designed and placed in such a way that they get more attention than any evacuation or precaution signs.
Characteristics of a Category 2 Hurricane
A Category 2 hurricane has a 6-8 ft high storm surge, with wind speed from 96 to 110 meters per second, and is very likely to cause extreme damage. Broken items and structure parts, being thrown around by the wind, are likely to cause damage to property, livestock, and people. Shallow rooted trees can be flung across roads and houses. Electric power supply is likely to be cut off for an indefinite period of time. Water supply might be cut off too due to malfunction of water filtering systems. Poorly roofed houses may lose their roofing. Frail and mobile houses are also at risk of getting damaged or destroyed.
Indoor Awareness: Pre-disaster Information Resources and Strategies
All structures such as houses, schools, factories, malls, churches, mosques, shopping malls, office complexes, jails and hospitals etc. should have the following information resources respectively:
- Large stickers with readable bold text printed in attractive colors (usually red and green) and illustrated with diagrams describing different possible and/or commonly encountered disasters and necessary precaution and/or actions to be taken during the emergency.
- Reasonably large blinking digital exit arrow signs should be hanging on walls and ceilings in and from areas of people’s activity, through corridors, stairways, and hallways leading people to the closest and safest exits. Such digital arrow signs should be turned on only when there is an emergency situation. The digital sign should also be computerized and controllable so that it could also be used to lead people away from unsafe exits.
- Large stickers with readable bold text, printed in attractive colors (usually red and green) and illustrated with diagrams describing location of emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers and medical aid kits.
- Reasonably loud alarms should be installed with speakers located where necessary to enhance effective broadcast of messages in the event of fire outbreak. Some modern alarms could trigger or initiate a call to a fire emergency service.
Outdoor Awareness: Pre-disaster Information Strategies and Resources
Outdoor information usually permits the display of signs of different shapes, forms, and sizes. Information resources employed in this case might also range depending on specifics of the city, type of disaster, the population involved, and the time frame necessary for carrying out an evacuation.
The following are information resources and strategies for outdoor awareness:
- Large board signs with readable, bold, illuminant text, printed in attractive colors (usually red and green) and illustrated with diagrams describing the kind of danger and/or disaster associated with activities around a river, lake, beach, stream, field and contaminated environment etc.
- Bold and visible road signs indicating a direction, speed limits or the necessary precautions should be situated at every kilometer throughout the road leading people away from the possible danger.
- In the case of a possible health epidemic outbreak, TV and radio stations should be used to broadcast the recommended precautions and instructions on what to do during a pending disaster. Competent and trained people can also be deployed to perform a house to house evacuation and/or precaution information. Public transport means, schools, shopping malls, hospitals, workplaces, marketplaces, and other places where people are likely to get infected should have large, visible and readable posters on the walls.
In case of a predicted natural disaster, such as hurricane, the best option is to have radio and television stations repeatedly broadcast expectations, impacts, and recommended actions in case of emergency or accidents. The Emergency Management Director might also contact mobile network operators and ask them to send warning and recommended precaution text messages to people living in the area associated with the potential risk.
If a disaster is predicted early enough, and there is sufficient time to prepare for its effects, the Emergency Management Department could print flyers and deliver them to the citizens through local or state post offices. Such flyers should be printed in different languages, possibly languages common to the people of the defined region. The content of the flyer should be simplified with pictorial explanations for better understanding of the information being passed around.
Reunion and Evacuation Routes
Considering the unexpected nature of this disaster, and that some people might be not prepared to it, chaos and anxiety associated with such occurrences are rarely controllable. Families whose members are scattered all over the town, begin to worry for their loved ones. As such, evacuating them from the site of impact might be difficult because they might not want to leave without knowing where their loved ones are, as well as whether they would meet ever again. Therefore, it is also important that people be informed about how to react in the case of the chaotic situation. Residents should be informed about a family reunion point outside the area of impact, they should also be aware of the easiest and safest evacuation routes that they could use if they decide to rescue themselves before the rescuers get to them. The necessary and most effective information resource that would help them in such a case would be a pocket map. The pocket map should clearly display evacuation routes, from the point or area of impact to the rehabilitation reunion units. Specific phone numbers should also be provided in the pre-disaster flyers mentioned earlier, as this would reduce the difficulty of reaching 911 to request rescue. Such phone numbers should also be broadcasted by the radio and TV stations for the sake of people with disabilities.
Psychological and Sociological Characteristics of the Community Before the Disaster
The community is a quiet suburban area, located near the seashore. The beach attracts both locals and tourists due to its magnificent and relaxing atmosphere. There are a few hotels where tourists reside during their stay in the coastal area. Restaurants and nightclubs that tourists usually visit for nightlife and alcoholic beverages are located directly at the beach. Most of the local private businesses are involved in catering for the needs and wants of tourists, other businesses revolve around entertainment, furniture, home decoration, and grocery among others. Both locals and tourists seem to be happy and contented with life in the community. Schools and hospitals are situated in the center of the city, not in the shore area, except for an emergency clinic situated there for obvious reasons.
72 Hours Before the Disaster
After the news of the impending hurricane speed through the city, families and friends start calling one another to find out whereabouts and spread the news further. Soon, some parents go to pick up their kids from neighbors, friends, schools and preschools. Tourists and locals who are not intoxicated, hurry into hotels where they lodge, get their belongings and head toward the nearest available road in their cars. By this time (two hours later), all the roads leading to the main road from the city will have been covered with slow-moving traffic.
Evacuation Strategies and Planning
- Assign a team of rescue professionals to start setting up a relocation/rescue camp for the people yet to be rescued. The location should be far away from the hurricane strike territory.
- Contact radio and TV stations to continuously assure locals that the situation is under control. Also, remind those listening and watching to keep calm and that rescuers would arrive at their doorsteps shortly. The location of the rescue camp should also be announced, so that family members would not endanger themselves by staying at home in order to locate the loved ones.
- Request mobile evacuation facilities and equipment.
- Assign a group of trained professionals to contact senior citizens, schools, and hospitals by phone and in person urging them to stay put until rescuers or guardians come to get them. Dispatch rescue teams to start collecting senior citizens from their homes, children and teachers from schools, patients from hospitals, intoxicated tourists and locals at the beach.
- Map out a relocation route and place information signs as direction and descriptive road signs at appropriate places. Print copies of the maps and distribute them at traffic posts, road blocks and broadcast the mapped information through radio and TV stations
- Assign traffic officers to specific road intersections to create a diversion from the community and/or areas of impact.
- Assign different mobile rescue officers to different locations and streets with the equipment necessary to collect senior citizens, toddlers, children, and anyone gone astray they can find.
- Ensure a clear traffic path for fast and proper transportation of the rescued to the rescue camp.
- Assign a team of trained rescue officers and/or personnel to collect contact information, such as home addresses and mobile phone numbers for contact and reunion purposes. Document everyone who arrives at the camp, categorizing them separately according to the names of the streets, hospitals, schools, or other specific locations from which they were rescued.
- Ensure that everyone at the rescue camp has food and shelter.
- Distribute emergency kits to the people and their families.
48 Hours Before the Disaster
Sociological and Psychological Impact
By now, almost everyone should be out of the city, those around are at a specified assembly point where rescue officials are helping them get ready for evacuation by the transport means available. The beach is emptied and quiet, with no presence of life except stray pets. Some hotels could leave their doors open, but people who operated them should be long gone. Parents and children who have not been able to locate each other will be very worried and emotionally drained. Senior citizens will be even more stressed with the chaos and evacuation process they went through. Some people will settle in knowing there is nothing they can do to change the situation, but they will hope that their homes and other valuable property will not be damaged beyond repair or damaged at all. Some people are scared of the impending impact of the situation on their lives and of where they would have to start from if the hurricane badly affects their lives.
- Clearly visible signs indicating an assembly point should be situated near the exits to a specified assembly point located outside the building; such signs should also be located along the route to the assembly point and at the assembly point.
- Assign rescue officers to patrol the streets in order to assist the evacuation process of the people still left behind.
- Assist as much as possible family reunions before it is dark.
- Continue spreading information of reunion locations by pamphlet distribution along the road and by radio and TV broadcasts.
- Create a help desk for people who might want to retrieve a pet or property which they could not get during the rescue process.
- Assign rescue officers to relevant requests.
- Assign rescue officers to go from house to house to check if there are still people in their homes, unaware of the situation around them for whatever reason.
- Computerize the names of those rescued to an online database so that friends and families can easily access the information, providing an effective inquiry system.
- Assign animal rescue officers to retrieve and rescue pets from the community.
- Have a helicopter fly over the community area to search for possibly omitted individuals wandering around or lost in the streets.
24 Hours before the Disaster
- Deploy psychologists, social workers and doctors to the rescue camp to manage ill and emotionally disturbed people.
- Provide the people at the camp with access to food, water, and medications if needed.
- Ensure orderliness and a calm atmosphere, try to reunite people with their pets and retrieved possessions.
- Confirm that there is no one left at the potential scene of impact.
- Call out with loudspeakers for anyone who needs help within the community.
- Have a helicopter on stand-by to rescue anyone until the impact takes place.
If the plan is stuck to, then the rescued people will be calmly waiting for the natural disaster to take place. Almost all families and pets will be reunited. Still, some of them, like home and business owners would panic or sit in tears. These people will need professional help to manage their feelings. Everybody will have to deal with the thought of what will be left of the city or their property by the time they have a chance to return.
Recovery Process, After the Disaster
After the hurricane is gone, families will visit the remains of the city and assess the damage done to their property. This cannot be allowed at that moment because the environment in the city after the impact still poses a danger to human life.
The recovery procedure involves the following:
- Order the restriction of civilians’ movement within the city, so as to avoid any sort of casualty.
- Call in the fire department and water distribution pipeline engineers to check the extent of damage and objects that need repairing. Ensure that they start repairing where necessary as soon as possible.
- Meanwhile, send a request to the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to get assistance with more shelters and meals for the evacuees.
- Call in the community service workers to clean up the mess made by the hurricane; such as fallen trees and debris which might hinder mobility of heavy-duty vehicles, officials and specialists arriving at the scene.
- Call in structural engineers to access which homes can be inhabited, and which ones should be repaired first, and which homes need to be rebuilt from scratch.
- Request the help of a Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in rebuilding the city’s infrastructure.
- Ensure that emotionally devastated evacuees receive help from psychologists and discuss pending support from the government as well as other agencies willing to help to return the locals back to the city.
- Identify and make a list of the people who have lost a home or more during the hurricane.
- Assess the structural validity of the schools, hospitals and other essential city institutions.
- Assign the Red Cross officials to assist people whose homes are still inhabitable to move back and gradually settle in.
In conclusion, life is precious and should be protected at all cost. Nevertheless, an emergency situation with the best emergency and evacuation plan still can go wrong at any time. No one can tell when things could get out of control and how people would behave under death threat. Sometimes people and their reaction can be a hindering factor to a successful evacuation. Regardless of all the attributes and possible behavior of those involved in an emergency situation, emergency and rescue officers are professionals who should carry out their duties with love, integrity and professionalism.