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Dorian Exposed Our Vulnerability to Category 5 Hurricanes

Dorian Exposed Our Vulnerability to Category 5 Hurricanes

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

One of the most important concepts to understand in emergency management literature is vulnerability. The concept posits that vulnerable areas will be harder hit during a disaster than less vulnerable areas. Ultimately, when emergency management scholars discuss vulnerability, they highlight its numerous components -- infrastructure, resources, building materials, construction policies, the ability to evacuate and other issues.

One of the tragic results of Hurricane Dorian was that it highlighted just how vulnerable the Bahamas are. It also shows how vulnerable most communities are to a Category 5 hurricane, especially one that stalls over an area for an excessive amount of time.

Such a situation poses two questions: Can communities actually prepare effectively for so strong a storm and will a Category 5 hurricane leave massive devastation regardless of any measures a community takes?

Dorian Death Toll at 50 with Thousands Reported Missing

Hurricane Dorian devastated Grand Bahama and Abaco islands In the northern Bahamas.  Buildings were reduced to rubble. Currently, the death toll stands at 50, but that number could rise substantially because thousands remain missing and may never be found.

The National Hurricane Center warns that such severe storms can leave an area uninhabitable for weeks or months afterward.

Taking what we understand about vulnerability and the damages sustained to the Bahamas, we need to look at vulnerability and hurricane preparedness from a few perspectives.

The first is obvious: a Category 5 hurricane is going to have devastating effects. If we know that, how do we emergency managers deal with it? If vulnerability is a major part of understanding disasters, are we humans ever going to not be vulnerable to monster storms like Dorian? How do we strengthen emergency management efforts to lessen the risks and vulnerabilities?

Overall, how can communities better prepare and become more resilient to such storms? The emergency management community has thought about, researched and argued over this question for a long time and no doubt will do so for years to come. Community resilience and effective preparation for a Category 5 storm are complicated issues that are not easy to solve.

Ultimately, Hurricane Dorian is an example of vulnerability as a concept in the emergency management discipline. A Category 5 hurricane will have devastating results, but are there actual ways for communities to effectively prepare for them?

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.