Professor D. Terrell
Warner Pacific College
November 19, 2010
Mt. Hood Eruption: Addressing Vulnerabilities
Scientists say an eruption of Mt Hood is unlikely, still the possibility is enough to give pause and to assess our vulnerabilities and resources in the event of an eruption or other natural disaster in the northwest. The U.S. Geological Survey has monitoring and response programs in place to warn and prepare for volcanic events; other agencies, the American Red Cross for example, have funds, materials and human resources to mobilize in emergencies. My concerns lie mainly on emotional health of our community and our ability to effectively and soundly manage challenges associated with the longer term effects of a volcanic eruption. I will offer personal speculation on who and what might be vulnerable in a local volcanic event.
Before an Eruption
The U.S. Geologic Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) in Vancouver, Washington, was founded in 1980 following the eruption of Mount St. Helens. The observatory works in partnership with other USGS centers and emergency agencies to monitor volcanic activity and provide timely warning of eruptions, and assess hazards from volcanoes (pyroclastic flow, ash clouds, lehar flooding). They continue to improve on methods to better monitor and predict behavior of volcanoes; and work to educate all levels of the public and media about what volcanoes can do. The CVO also shares volcano information with emergency-management and planning officials which include the Emergency Alert System, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and relief organizations.
Empowerment through preparedness
One factor in anxiety disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the nature of the unexpected. If a person has an opportunity to anticipate a potentially traumatic situation, assume an amount of control, and take action, then that one is less likely to suffer serious lasting affects (Mills, Reiss, Dombeck, 2010). Therefore, early warning acts as a major influence in the emotional health of volcano survivors.
The Emergency Alert System continues to adapt to new technologies for various communication applications. CNN Tech news (http://articles.cnn.com/) announces new technologies in emergency notification, including text messaging available now. Emergency response agencies, government agencies including military and FEMA, and relief services mobilize and provide rescue (consider the National Guard being the first on the scene to lift Katrina survivors from rooftops), evacuation plans, and relief. The Red Cross provides counselors on staff in addition to emergency food, shelter, medicine, clothing. Sadly, hurricane Katrina served as a tragic lesson in emergency preparedness follow through, and one I believe America will not repeat.
The vulnerable in our communities include the elderly, infants, those with disabilities, and language barriers, which can cause greater feelings of risk. Survivors of past trauma are particularly vulnerable to anxiety disorders. Other influences, according to the American Red Cross, adults at risk for mental health problems think that they (a) are uncared for by others, (b) have little control over what happens to them, or (c) lack the capacity to manage stress.
Health and help for trauma
The American Psychological Association offers information on symptoms of stress and how to help. Symptoms in brief:
• Intense feelings, unpredictable at times
• Physiological responses including rapid heartbeat, sweating, cognitive impairment or delay
• Interpersonal relationship strained: conflict and arguments, or withdrawal and isolation.
Helping yourself and family:
• Be patient, give yourself time to heal.
• Ask for support: support groups, loved ones.
• Take care of your body, sleep as best as possible, nourishment, avoid alcohol and drugs
• Seek the spiritual
The last entry is from my personal experience. When I have felt I have nothing left God has been there to remind me that I actually have everything.
Standing at the Weyerhouser Visitor's Center twenty-five years after the blast at Mt St Helens I am profoundly humbled by the remains of an explosion to rival approximately 20,000 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs. There remains an enormous gaping hole in the earth. This is more power than I can imagine, more destruction than I can conceive. Should an eruption, flood, tornado or tsunami occur any time soon, I believe lessons learned and the continual improvement of technology will offer even better preparedness, which is the crux of limiting mental, emotional, physical and environmental impacts of natural disasters.
FCC Approves Emergency Alert Text Messaging System Retrieved 11/21/10 from http://articles.cnn.com
David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory U.S. Geological Survey
Retrieved 11/21/10 from http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/
Mt St Helens and Catastrophism Retrieved 11/20/10 from http://www.icr.org/article/mt-st- helens-catastrophism
Stress: perception and reality Retrieved 11/22/10 from http://www.apa.org/