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Hurricane Irma was an extraordinarily powerful and calamitous Cape Verde-type hurricane. It was the strongest hurricane witnessed in the Atlantic since the occurrence of Wilma in 2005. This fact was concluded in terms of the maximum sustained winds. Hurricane Irma was the first Category 5 to occur on the Leeward Islands. Irma developed near the Cape Verde Islands resulting from the movement of a tropical wave off the coast of West Africa. Within 24 hours, Irma had quickly intensified becoming a category 2 hurricane. The hurricane continued to intensify becoming a category 5 on 4 September 2014. It reached its peak two days later with minimum pressure of 914 hPa and winds of 185 mph being recorded. These records make Irma the second most powerful tropical cyclone in 2017 (FEMA, 2017).
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Hurricane Irma left a trail of disaster along the Caribbean. It affected an estimate of around 1.3 million people. It killed around 40 people in the Caribbean. The hurricane moved up to The United States of America in the states of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. In the US, it killed 12 people before it weakened to a tropical depression (FEMA, 2017).
Southern Florida in particular, especially Keys (low-lying areas of archipelago) felt the effects of the storm. The hurricane left a trail of debris, caused floods and resulted to power outages. Thrashing winds pulled down power lines and trees. According to Eric Silagy, the president and chief executive officer of Florida Power and Lighting, hurricane Irma had cut down power to more than half of the population of Florida (20.6 million residents).
Eric stated that more than 9 million people were affected by the power outages (FEMA, 2017).
Design of the Emergency Operation Center
Emergency operations center are critical for effective direction, control and coordination of emergency response efforts. For smooth operations, the following is the design needed for hurricane Irma (White & Hass, 1975).
The Emergency operations center has to be designed in compliance with the state building code. This code addresses high winds, snow loads, local hazards and Americans with Disabilities Act (Hurricane Irma, 2017).
The Emergency operations center must be designed to accommodate the maximum expected staff that can be called upon in the event of the disaster. The minimum space per individual is 50 square feet. However, the recommended space is 80 square feet (Benefits.gov, 2017).
The Emergency operations center must have the following rooms to provide adequate working room.
- Daily office space for the emergency management division staff from higher-ranking officials such as the Emergency Management Division Director to the receptionist and office messengers.
- An executive/ lead agency/meeting room
- Communications rooms for telephone or radio and support equipment
- Operations room for the coordination of the emergency
- Electrical/mechanical rom
- Break/kitchen area
- Storage area for publications, supplies, procedures and maps.
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This is a room meant for the assembly of agency representatives. It has to provide all the important elements that will be needed during the occurrence of hurricane Irma. It has to be big enough to provide enough working area for at least two representatives from each agency based on the provided list during the planning stages of the Emergency operations center. This room must have the following features.
- Telephone logs and lines
- Video or manual large format status display which include of logs, charts and maps
- 30 square feet for each individual.
- Network, Internet and computer needs for automated processing of data (Department for International Development, 2017).
During the disaster, the Emergency operations center should have the capability to communicate with reporters in the field. The communication abilities of the Emergency operations center include.
- FAX machine and line
- Wide Area Network (WAN) or Local Area Network (LAN)
- Telephone lines for all the included agencies. There should also be a provision for present government representatives.
- Telephone lines for other support personnel such as the executives, secretary and the directors
- Easy and non-hindered access to an Emergency Alert System
- Easy and non-hindered access to trigger local warning systems
- All required material to monitor the weather
- Enough analog phone lines for modems (for computers)
- Electromagnetic protection for antenna and other facility. This is specifically for protection against lightning.
- Permanent or semi-permanent radio tower for support of installing of radio equipment. It might be easier to use one if it is available locally.
- Radios with regularities to communicate with personnel on the field such as highway control, police, parks, fire brigade, hospitals, Red Cross, utilities, school transport systems, public works, counties, states and other nations.
- A communications room next to the Operations room. The room should be big enough to accommodate the maximum number of personnel expected. There should also be a reservation for amateur radio. (Benefits.gov, 2017)
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The Emergency operations center should have a backup power source such as an electrical power generator. The generator should be sufficient to power the Emergency operations center and all-inclusive facilities such as radio, computer systems, elevator, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The generator should be permanently wired with automatic start and transfer. The location of the generator should be strategic such as the fumes and noise do not interfere with the operations of the Emergency operations center. The generator should also have a self-contained fuel system that can power the generator for four days. 72 hours is the minimum requirement (White & Hass, 1975).
Emergency operations center must be easily secured from intrusion. Access to the facility should be limited to authorized personnel. It should be staffed adequately with security personnel. The security personnel should also make entry and exit records for all people who access the facility (Department for International Development, 2017).
Other basic design requirements
The Emergency operations center should have adequate restroom facilities for the staff.
Emergency operations center should be constantly be supplied with equipment such as markers, papers and charts.
Emergency operations center should have constant supply of clean drinking water. If the facility does not have a water line, there should be provision for bottled water.
Food Service for the staff
The Emergency operations center should have a designated area for preparing and serving meals for the staff. In situations where the facility is overcrowded, there should be at least a provision of cold or hot beverages and snacks.
Location of the Emergency operations center
There are different places that an Emergency operations center can be located. The location mostly depends on the type of EOC. These types include:
Fixed facility EOC
This can be a central location that may be found in a government building. The facility should be place in a location that meets the following criteria
- It a secure location
- It can be easily accessed by all staff
- It has constant power and water connections
- It is easy to maneuver to important services such as the police and hospitals
This is mostly a trailer that has been equipped withal or most of the things one would find in a fixed Emergency operations center. This vehicle does not have a fixed location. It operates as an emergency response vehicle and is located in certain locations during times of certain needs (Department for International Development, 2017).
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How Media relations are conducted to disperse information to the public
In the wake of damage and suffering caused by disasters, a new realization is shaping up. There is an important need to minimize loss of property and life at all cost and to maximum level through effective dispersion of information.. In the modern world, this has been made easier using modern technology-based systems (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, 2017).
Experts mostly social scientists believe that human suffering caused by disasters can be reduced by a large margin through mitigation, disaster preparedness, improved warning systems education and public information through media relations. This section shall focus on how media relations are conducted to disperse information to the public (Hurricane Irma, 2017).
In the past communication has shown its importance in cases of disaster. It is used for data management and analysis of techniques. It is also used to increase the publics’ knowledge on the origin of hazards and how to react. The media has the ability to sensitize people effectively though live coverage of the disaster and constantly updated reports (Benefits.gov, 2017).
The use of media is important in general promotion of a regime with an advanced disaster management. The print media is vital as the audience has a culture where people have much more trust on written message that information presented through word of mouth. With such in mind, the media relations, through the newspaper are conducted as a means of advising people as people will take the information more seriously (Hurricane Irma, 2017).
A much derelict aspect is the lack of coordination and communication among state agencies, humanitarian organizations and development partners before and after disaster activities. This issue can lead to duplication of efforts as well as lack of effective groundwork. This can be worse off in sensitive areas. Media relations are conducted to improve the quality of communication between several involved organizations. The media conducts focal departments or individual people through whom such communication can be conveyed (Hurricane Irma, 2017).
Media relations also conduct relaying functions. They inform the public on the measures that are being taken by the teams on the ground. They allow the public to monitor these measures. The media caution the affected people or people that are going to be affected. Mostly it is the Dos and Don’ts of destroying rumors, establishing reliable contacts, prevention of confusion and panic, identifying spots that need extra attention and focusing on them, assisting voluntary organizations and informing and assuring affected people (Department for International Development, 2017).
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Relief, rescue and rehabilitation measures are very sensitive and need to be coordinated with an integrated approach. For that reason, all government, non-government organizations and all related agencies need to have a unified poll of resources for effective, expedient and efficient work on all fronts. Collection of tangible resources, information and enlisting of human resources are as important as their efficient utilization. The depiction of suffering and misery through the media may be at many times a cry for help where people will come forward out of pity to help in various ways (Department for International Development, 2017).
Disasters similar to hurricane Irma have become episodic features on national life. Vulnerable sections and spots in the society through the media have been identified through the years. In most cases, those who suffer the most are the weaker sections in the society. This weaker sect in the society find it had to move from these places in society this is because their livelihoods sources are situated in the affected areas. These people are the highest population in the society. Consequently, they contribute a significant proportion of the national health. In times of such, disasters, they are the most affected yet rarely remembered. Media relations are used to conduct these issues. This will attract the attention of the government to install permanent measures to help this section of the society (Benefits.gov, 2017).
Sometimes media relations have fulfilled all the public expects of it. In some occasions, it has been found inadequate. However, if the media relations are to conduct properly what is expected of them on such occasions, it is important that it gets all the assistance it may need form the government and non-governmental organizations (Department for International Development, 2017).
Whether or not the emergency preparedness plan is effective for the hazard
After the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attack on September 11, 2011, there was a need for an improvement in emergency preparedness plan. Moreover, the disasters have proven to be very costly n terms of damage and human lives lost. This section will look at the effectiveness of such plans in terms of lives saved and damage that has been avoided (Benefits.gov, 2017).
In a 1975 publication, White and Haas assessed natural disasters. They discovered that previous research had not produced significant impact on reduction of disaster damages due to lack of political, economic and social support. 30 years later, the, America still suffers from the same issue. However, Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 articulated the need for a better preparedness plan. Many policy makers strive to address this problem to no avail. Their efforts are still deemed to be inadequate and will not have much help when a hurricane occurs (White & Hass, 1975).
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Billions of American dollars are being spent to prepare for disasters. Nevertheless, Americans do not have confidence in the allocation of funds. It is not easy to be confident when you quantify effectiveness of available options in terms of lives, production losses, capital and hazard probabilities. To gain the confidence of American citizens, the government, together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have circulated several documents to respond to demands of increased preparedness. These publications show the public what the government has put in place to be prepared for disasters such as hurricanes. These publications focuses on major issues such as management of domestic incidences, national preparedness and important protection of infrastructure such as bridges and dams (FEMA, 2017).
For protection of life, organizations together with the government ensured they educated citizens on how to stay safe during incidences of a disaster. For example, movement when there is an order to evacuate, staying in safe locations if one has not been told to evacuate, listening to the radio at all times for important updates, staying away from windows and many more. In addition to that, several emergency operations have been set up to assist in direct operations and communication purposes (FEMA, 2017).
These preparations have proved to be vital in prevention of unnecessary damage and prevention of catastrophic loss of life. The nation has been able to salvage some important infrastructure using modern construction techniques that are designed particularly to prevent them from collapsing. The preparations have also saved a lot of lives. People are aware on how to react and are not caught off-guard when the disasters occur. People have also saved their own property using storage techniques shown in the publications (Hurricane Irma, 2017).
Hurricane Irma was a historical Cape Verde-type hurricane that will be remembered for many years due to its intensity and wide-range effects in Florida and the Caribbean Islands. NASA meteorologists in conjunction with meteorologists from all over the world predicted the hurricane. The facts about the hurricane that was yet to occur were very frightening. This motivated the government and other related agencies to plan ahead and set up several protective features. These features proved to be important, as there was a significant reduction in fatalities compared to those who died in Hurricane Katrina (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, 2017).
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- Benefits.gov. (2017, September 21). Disaster Relief for Hurricane Irma. Retrieved from Benefits.gov: https://www.benefits.gov/newsroom/news-and-updates/article/304
- Department for International Development. (2017, October 6). One month on from Hurricane Irma. Retrieved from GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/one-month-on-from-hurricane-irma
- FEMA. (2017, December 15). Florida Hurricane Irma. Retrieved from FEMA: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4337
- Hurricane Irma. (2017, November 29). Retrieved from USA.gov: https://www.usa.gov/hurricane-irma
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration. (2017, November 12). Detailed Meteorological Summary on Hurricane Irma. Retrieved from National Weather Service: https://www.weather.gov/tae/Irma_technical_summary