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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
When emergencies happen, how do Americans measure the seriousness of these emergencies? Do Americans look for the number of casualties, deaths or the total destruction of property to say whether or not an emergency was particularly significant?
When a serious emergency has happened, the news media reports the specifics of casualties and property damage estimates. These numbers give citizens a glimpse into understanding an emergency, but do not allow for them to have a larger scope of the incident and to understand how the American government system managed the situation.
Does it take drastic numbers to show the seriousness of an emergency? More importantly, do concepts like how many people were injured give politicians a good gauge for figuring out how much money to budget towards emergencies?
High Number of Tornadoes in Virginia
Earlier this week, the National Weather Service confirmed that 15 tornadoes touched down in Virginia on Good Friday. Surprisingly, according to University of Virginia climatologist Jerry Stenger, the recent outbreak was not a record-breaking one. The Good Friday tornadoes rank third among some of the recent outbreaks in Virginia.
During the Virginia tornado outbreak, an EF-3 tornado touched down in Franklin County, Virginia. Despite the damages, no one was injured.
In this outbreak, nothing really happened to say that policies in place weren't being managed well or did not completely cover incidents. If anything, the numbers in regard to the tornadoes might have led citizens to consider that the tornado outbreak wasn’t that serious because no one was injured.
However, EF3 tornadoes are serious. The Virginia tornadoes had wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph and one tornado was on the ground for eight minutes.
Seriousness of Emergencies Determines Their Funding
American emergency management is based on the concept that the more serious an emergency, the more resources will be needed. More importantly, mutual aid agreements allow for neighboring towns to assist in emergencies, and other policies allow for state and federal governments to assist in the management of a major emergency.
These practices certainly make sense from an emergency management standpoint. But we may be sending the wrong message to the community in regard to how serious an emergency is.