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Determining Emergencies: Should We Judge by the Numbers?

Determining Emergencies: Should We Judge by the Numbers?

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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.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.