Dorian Exposed Vulnerability to Category 5 Hurricanes
By Allison G. S. Knox, faculty member at American Military University
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on 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?
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University, teaching courses in Emergency and Disaster Management. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master of Arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She is a certified lifeguard, EMT and is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Allison currently serves as Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for NAEMT, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars. She is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.