1948 years ago in AD 63 an earthquake in southern Italy by the gulf of Naples seriously damaged the ancient city of Pompeii causing an undetermined number of deaths and spread out destruction, but the locals went to work rebuilding in the same spot until they were buried by the eruption of the Vesuvius volcano 16 years later in AD 79.
Galveston TX Hurricanes
Average Brushed or hit every 2.94 years Average Direct hit every 8.63 years
The Great Storm of 1900 - Sep 8th 1900 - Pop: 42,000 residents Category 4 @ 135 mph -Great loss of life between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals – officially 8,000
The 1915 Storm, August 17th, Category 4 @ 135 mph 42 people dead in the Galveston area
$60 - 1915 million dollars in damage
Ike Sep 13th 2008 - The third most destructive hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States Final landfall in Galveston Texas as a strong cat 2 with cat 5 equivalent storm surge winds extended 120 miles from the center.
Blamed for at least 195 deaths – 74 in Haiti and 112 in the USA 300 still missing. - Damages estimated at 24 billion (2008) US Dollars
Resulted in the largest evacuation in the state of Texas history and the largest search and rescue operation in US history
Chernobyl, An Experiment Gone Wrong
On Saturday, April 26th, 1986 at 1:23 am, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. Ironically, the experiment consisted in testing how the power plant would respond in the event of an accident. The operators at the plant wanted to bring down the power output of the reactor to 25%, but over-confidence, poor training and poor knowledge of how a reactor works caused them to overdo it, and they ended up bringing down the power output to 1%. When they then tried to bring it up to 25%, the reactor overheated and exploded causing the worst nuclear accident in history.
However carefully we plan for the mitigation, response and recovery from both natural and manmade disasters, most people, communities and business organizations are reliant upon their own level of preparedness or lack of it. They are long way from self reliance when faced with recurring catastrophes and other unexpected hazards. Despite advances in technology and communications, they receive limited or no education to properly address the need to plan and prepare for their survival. And despite the obvious and constant vulnerabilities, a resistance to invest in developing effective preparedness and awareness programs is still prevalent throughout.
With the exception of certain businesses and organizations that are mandated to comply with strict regulations for their operation (e.g. banking and financial institutions) and train their employees, most businesses and communities lack the training and have not developed realistic plans, continuing to be exposed and vulnerable to recurring catastrophe.
Throughout the east coast urban growth is attracting in record numbers families to relocate and retire into coastal areas where vulnerability to hurricane, tornado and flood is constant and extremely high. In relocating to new cities they become exposed to hazards prevalent in such communities where emergency resources are few and roles come as an added responsibility usually assigned to police and fire departments. They are likely to have limited personnel to promote education and are most likely overwhelmed with their primary responsibilities. These and other factors increase community vulnerability.
Studies depict communities along the east coast totally exposed and not ready to respond to a disastrous event like a major hurricane, much less deal with the aftermath, relying on the state and federal governments to come to their rescue.
Remote communities lack the communication infrastructure to receive warnings to impending disaster relying only on friends or family networks to communicate. This is an area of special concern due to the fact that incompatibilities of systems and/or obsolete equipment exist, precluding proper distribution of information and communication before, during and after disastrous events.
Despite the obvious vulnerabilities communities in hurricane and flood prone areas along the east coast continue to defy the odds believing themselves, exempt of harm based on previous disaster patterns, feeling confident and failing to take precautionary measures.
It is crucial that everybody learn how to avoid harm in these predictable circumstances by getting involved in educational programs and assisting in advanced planning to protect life and property. Of equal importance, is the need to develop strategies to enable individuals to be as self reliant as possible in the face of danger and isolation.
Recent advances in technology have yielded an impressive range of systems and communication tools capable of predicting with high degree of accuracy tornados and hurricane trajectories, days in advance, and the internet has expanded the availability of information, but without proper awareness and preparation entire communities continues to be exposed and vulnerable.
There is much that needs to be done to improve warnings; levels of awareness, targeted education and preparation to eliminate significant misconceptions. A multimedia approach and all levels of community involvement in educational programs are required. Education must also be a continuous process.
The unprecedented impact and toll of recent disasters highlights the need to leverage modern technologies to improve systems, methods and tools for the very important outcome, the reduction of the vulnerability of people at risk.
Information and education are the most powerful tools that can be offered.