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Natural Disasters and Emergency Management in Missouri

Natural Disasters and Emergency Management in Missouri

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Natural Disasters and Emergency Management in Missouri

Natural disasters are defined as significance negative events that arise from the earth’s natural processes. Over the recent past, the prevalence of natural disasters has increased significantly with climate change being the main contributor. The state of Missouri is not immune to natural disasters with floods being the most prominent. Flooding presents adverse implications to the health of the local community and hence the need to put in place adequate response measures to mitigate the consequences.

Healthcare incident management is founded on the premise of mitigating the negative health implications of an occurrence. Flooding disasters fit perfectly into the principles of healthcare incident management since the disasters not only result in the destruction of property but also presents adverse health implications to the local community.

Triaging is an important process during disaster management that involves determining the priority of treatment for the disaster victims in accordance with the severity of their condition (Pampel, 2008). Triaging enables the concerned parties to ration the limited treatments in an efficient manner that caters to the cases that require immediate attention. Although the technique is highly appropriate in responding to natural disasters, there are various issues that are associated with floods that render its successful application highly challenging. One of the issue that is associated with flood disaster that affects the triaging process involves the lack of adequate space to perform the activity. Flooding normally renders large portions of land inaccessible and unusable hence making it rather challenging for the response teams to identify an open space or field where they can gather all the affected persons and perform the triaging process effectively. Secondly, flooding results in the loss of power and since advanced triaging techniques are normally computerized and involve the use of a wide range of electronic equipment. Consequently, the lack of electricity makes it rather impossible to perform the activity.

Moreover, an effective triaging process requires the administrators to acquire critical health information pertaining to the victims. However, access to such information may not be possible during flooding disasters due to destroyed communication channels, health records and the victim may also be unconscious hence making it hard to obtain any information from the individual.

Floods are considered as one of the leading causes of injuries and casualties among the most common natural disasters. One of the most common health implication that is associated with flooding is hypothermia owing to prolonged submersion in cold water. Lacerations, fractures, trauma, and punctures are also common owing to falling debris or when the victims are swept away by the over flooded and raging rivers and later hit against rocks, and other debris. Electrical shocks are also prevalent during floods as electric power lines get swept away and live electrical cables come into contact with water (Shaw, & Sharma, 2011). Moreover, floods increase the transmission of water borne and vector borne diseases. Some of the common water borne diseases includes cholera, typhoid, fever, hepatitis, and leptospirosis. On the other hand, common vector borne diseases that are associated with floods include yellow fever, dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever, malaria, and West Nile fever.

Vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly are normally at high risk during floods. One of the factors that render such persons to be at high risk is that survival during the disaster normally depends on the swimming skills of the affected individual. Having adequate swimming skills may enable flood victims to swim through the flooded areas and access safer grounds. However, the above identified vulnerable populations normally lack adequate swimming skills therefore end up being stranded when floods occur. Secondly, flooding normally results in the victims being submerged in cold water for extended periods of time. The ability of a person to withstand the negative impacts associated with being submerged in cold water from long periods is normally dependent on one’s state of health whereby the children, the elderly, and the sick end up being the most adversely affected in the event emergency response teams are unable to reach them in time (Youngerman, 2008).

There exists a wide range of public health concerns that are associated with flooding where the health impacts normally depend on a wide range of factors and specific to the particular context. As earlier indicated, flooding usually results in an increase in the spread of water and vector borne diseases. The most common water borne diseases are leptospirosis and gastrointestinal diseases. Leptospirosis is normally transmitted when the skin and mucous membranes of an individual come into contact with damp soil, water, or mud that has been contaminated with rodent urine. The common symptoms that are associated with the disease include headache, fever, dry cough, nausea, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and shaking chills. Gastrointestinal diseases normally result from the contamination of drinking water facilities and when public water resources become compromised. Additionally, the resultant population displacement that takes place due to evacuation activities serve to increase the risk in the spread of diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, and fever. Additional water borne diseases that are associated with flooding include wound infections, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and ear, nose, and throat infections. On the case of vector borne disease, flooding may initially result in a decrease of mosquito breeding. However, as the flooding continues and the waters begin to stagnate, the prevalence of vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever increase significantly. The risk of infection of such diseases increases significantly owing to greater exposure and overcrowding in the evacuation sites. Other healthcare risks that result from flooding include respiratory tract infections and injuries because of wading through flood waters.

Owing to the severity of adverse impacts of flooding to public health, it is critical for the concerned parties to ensure that adequate measures are put in place immediately to decrease the risk of epidemics. A review of the communicable diseases associated with flooding reveals that most normally result from contaminated and stagnant water. Therefore, one immediate response measures involve ensuring the supply of safe water. Such measures normally comprise of identifying the sources of water, such as tube wells, external supply, and wells after which the sources are then chlorinated effectively or treated using other effective means such as boiling drinking water. The second response measure involves ensuring the safety of food supply. The measure normally involves activities such as ensuring that the food supplied is prepared in a hygienic way before distribution and educating the food handlers on personal hygiene measures and food safety practices. Thirdly, it is critical to ensure the availability of proper sanitary facilities. The relevant authorities and agencies should ensure that there are adequate sanitary facilities to cater to the displaced persons residing in a given camp and if possible make the necessary arrangements to construct adequate temporary latrines. Thirdly, it is important to ensure the safe disposal of refuse.

Immediately after a flooding event has occurred, multiple agencies, organizations, and individuals normally respond in the effort of mitigating the adverse implications. However, lack of proper coordination may result in the redundancy of efforts, possible conflicts, and other occurrences that may hinder the effectiveness of the response efforts. Therefore, it is critical to ensure inter-agency collaboration and coordination. One of the effective ways of ensuring interagency and local cooperation involves the institution of a single and cohesive disaster response team that merges all participating parties into a single team. The team’s management normally identifies the expertise and resources of the various participating parties and allocates the resources them strategically to areas that they are best suited in a manner that is well coordinated and monitored (Noji, 2007).

Important to note is that adequate preparation is key to addressing a disaster and flooding in particular. Some of the possible measures to addressing flooding disasters involve the construction of proper drainage channels and banking infrastructure especially along rivers that are prone to flooding their banks. The construction of safe water reservoirs such as tanks is equally important in ensuring an adequate supply of safe water in the event of flooding.

In conclusion, flooding presents adverse health implications to the local community. The health implications range from water and vector borne diseases to injuries such as trauma and fractures. It is therefore, important to ensure adequate measures are put in place to mitigate the adverse implications. Moreover, it is equally important to ensure that all efforts by the various agencies and individuals are well coordinated to ensure their optimal execution.

 

References

Noji, E. K. (2007). The public health consequences of disasters. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Pampel, F. C. (2008). Disaster response. New York, NY: Facts on File.

Shaw, R., & Sharma, A. (2011). Climate and disaster resilience in cities. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Youngerman, B. (2008). Pandemics and global health. New York, NY: Facts On File.

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