Home Mitigation Good Infrastructure is a Major Component of Evacuations
Good Infrastructure is a Major Component of Evacuations

Good Infrastructure is a Major Component of Evacuations

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

The cyclone that struck Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi on March 14 killed more than 1,300 Africans, with 1,000 victims in Mozambique alone. More shocking is the fact that the cyclone was only a Category 2 storm.

Hurricane Florence that hit the southeastern United States in 2018 was also a Category 2 storm. But it did not cause nearly the same loss of life and property that Mozambique experienced.

Often, when we see the disturbing photos from a natural disaster like Cyclone Idai, our immediate reaction is “Why weren’t those people evacuated?” Currently, the Mozambican government is working to move people out of harm’s way.

“Before the storm even made landfall, its outer bands caused flooding in neighboring Malawi, killing more than 120, demonstrating just how huge the storm was,” The Washington Post reported.

“The storm, packing winds that topped 100 mph, landed a direct hit on Mozambique’s fourth-largest city, Beira, home to half a million people,” the Post added. “The city is almost totally submerged. Idai then stalled out over the mountainous border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe, causing massive landslides that swept away roads and homes.”

Evacuation notices certainly do save lives, but it is important to note that evacuations require a great deal of coordination and administrative support. Any evacuation decision comes from a well-developed infrastructure that supports the evacuation notice as well as the actual evacuation.

Evacuations Require a Well-Developed Infrastructure for Effective Public Notification

Issuing an evacuation notice to a threatened region requires an infrastructure that can effectively manage warning the general public of a dangerous situation. Before the era of mass communications, police officers and other public servants would knock on doors to make sure that citizens understood they needed to leave the area.

In recent years, radio and television stations, social media sites, and alert apps on cellphones have been used to quickly disseminate important evacuation notices within minutes. Some countries, however, still do not have the infrastructure or the financial means to quickly get information out to the public.

Also, many residents of poorer countries do not own televisions or radios, which makes spreading evacuation notifications more difficult. Ultimately, if citizens are unaware of an impending serious situation, they have no reason to think about leaving their homes and businesses.

Evacuating People Who Cannot Help Themselves

During an emergency situation, there will always be individuals who will need extra assistance. Therefore, it is important to have an infrastructure in place that can move these people out of harm’s way.

If authorities require individuals to leave their homes for their own safety, they must provide the infrastructure to rapidly move people out of danger. That’s when public transportation becomes important because some people will not be able to leave the area in danger on their own.

Local authorities, for example, need to effectively use buses during such an emergency. Even during Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Transportation was able to mobilize 1,350 buses.

Evacuation problems often occur because the coordination of resources among relief agencies is mismanaged. International relief efforts under proper management can effectively evacuate people from the most seriously damaged areas in southeastern Africa. But it will take continuous rescue operations by numerous organizations and manpower to bring those affected by Cyclone Idai to safety.

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.