Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reducing Our Vulnerability With Preparedness by Aaron Osorio

Environmental Studies PHS 100
David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
September 21, 2010

Reducing Our Vulnerability With Preparedness
Since the beginning of time, the human race has had a constant and sometimes horrific confrontation with nature, be it in the form of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, etc. Even though as a race we have made significant improvements and advances in this fight, we still fall prey to the devastating power of Mother Nature on a global scale.
Nobody seems to be immune to it, but there does appear to be some commonalties amongst those hit the hardest. Typically, the wreckage is worst among undeveloped, poorer nations. But what can be done? Can society’s vulnerability to nature’s hazards be minimized?
According to the Team of the Regional Operations Department 2 of the Inter-American Development Bank (1999) it most definitely can. There are, however, several steps in order to achieve this. The first is proper planning or adequate environmental management. This refers to our rapid urbanization and poorly engineered construction. This combination can have devastating results when nature strikes.
If we intend on minimizing the effects of natural hazards, we must plan accordingly. This entails developing concrete regulations followed by means to enforce them in urban areas, with a focus on construction and adequate infrastructure. If the materials used or designs are faulty, the damage will be catastrophic. Standards must be set, but more importantly, they must be approved, checked and tested. Incentives could be provided for those who follow them, as well as fines imposed on those who do not.
In addition, continuously battling poverty is a must. It is no secret that the poorest areas suffer the most. This is obviously an ongoing global issue, and we should remain ever steadfast is doing everything in our hands to stop it. Of course, this is a complex issue and I do not mean to sound naive in addressing it. But if we can resolve, as a global community to ending it, I believe progress is possible.
Another thing to consider is the value of a natural hazard vulnerability assessment. After all, if we could develop a way to measure our vulnerability, we can then implement effective ways to reduce it. This assessment can take many forms, but ultimately it will come down to educating the public. If citizens, emergency response units and agencies work in partnership, casualties and damages could significantly decrease.
I grew up in Peru and vividly remember multiple tremors (mostly small in nature) throughout my childhood. These were frequent enough that our family had the “evacuation system” pretty well developed. We knew the quickest ways out and where to meet.
Since we lived in an apartment building and we were on the third, fourth and fifth floors, the shaking at times was quite strong. I do not think one ever gets completely used to this type of event, but there is somewhat of a desensitization that takes place after it has happened a few times.
In more recent years, I have been fortunate and not experienced any major disasters or hazards. The most recent I can think of would be our “winter blast” a couple years ago, although that probably does not meet disaster criteria. It did however, require some preparedness and hyper-vigilance, specifically in limiting driving (entirely at times) and keeping walkways clear.
Ultimately, this is all we can do: be prepared. Our world is awe-inspiring and unpredictable in nature. We can never truly know what might happen and the possible outcomes. If we are to effectively respond, we need to have systems set up and be as organized as possible as a community, state, country and planet.

Reducing Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Mitch (1999). Retrieved September 19, 2010 from:

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