Home Emergency Management News Typhoon Hagibis: Another Case of Broken Levees?
Typhoon Hagibis: Another Case of Broken Levees?

Typhoon Hagibis: Another Case of Broken Levees?

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

This year, the world has seen a couple of truly devastating hurricanes and typhoons that have left behind a wake of serious damages and lost lives. Hurricane Dorian – a Category 5 storm – left a couple of the Bahamian islands uninhabitable.

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According to National Public Radio, Typhoon Hagibis last weekend left about 50 persons dead in Japan. The rains from the typhoon – one of the worst to strike Japan in decades – broke 10 levees that flooded a number of communities, NHK World reported.

These powerful storms had devastating effects. In such cases, we’re often left wondering how could these disasters happen again and again when everything we understand about massive storms indicates that we need serious mitigation and preparedness efforts?

While mitigation is clearly a way for governments to effectively manage hazards in their communities, mitigation efforts can be particularly costly. More importantly, mitigation is associated with risk. But if the risk isn’t there, there really isn’t a reason to spend a lot of money on a mitigation project.

Take Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When that hurricane hit town, dozens of levees were overrun and collapsed, flooding large areas of New Orleans. Why didn’t the levees – built specifically to guard against flooding – hold? The city did not spend the money needed to strengthen them further because of the high cost and low risk of a major deluge.

 The High Costs of Storm Mitigation Efforts

It isn’t clear what the mitigation efforts were taken regarding the affected levees in Japan. According to National Public Radio, Typhoon Hagibis was the strongest to hit since 1958. That lengthy period might suggest that the risks associated with major hurricanes were not at the forefront of local government mitigation policy discussions.

Mitigation efforts, regardless of the country’s emergency management programs, are expensive and can be complicated by societal and governmental factors. That can make it difficult for mitigation programs to roll out effectively. In short, mitigation practices are a complicated web of practicality, budgets, and risk management.

Examination of Preparedness for Typhoon Hagibis Will Expose Mitigation Problems

As more information emerges about what happened in Japan when Typhoon Hagibis struck the island nation, some of the problems leading up to the storm will become apparent, particularly where preparedness and mitigation are concerned.

Like so many other storms before it, understanding Hagibis and the factors that contributed to the tremendous damage will be invaluable lessons for emergency management experts and practitioners as they continue to study and make recommendations to prevent future such devastating events.

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.