An Emergency Operations Center During Hurricane Harvey

Subject: Environment
Pages: 7
Words: 1972
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: Master

Introduction

Natural disasters always cause massive damage to urban infrastructure. Hurricanes occur relatively often on the North American mainland, which also brings many problems. Hurricane Harvey caused the region’s most enormous flood in Texas, from which many businesses and people are still struggling to recover. The colossal damage caused by the hurricane-affected the economic sectors of the state and resulted in 68 deaths (Dunning, 2020). The causes of the disaster are significant, and not all of them are spontaneous. Harvey positions as the second-most expensive tropical storm to hit the US terrain since 1900, causing about $125 billion loss. The hurricane is liable for 68 deaths, the most considerable number of direct deaths from this category of natural disaster in Texas since the beginning of the 20th century (Dunning, 2020). In addition, it unloaded more than 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas, causing one of the most significant floods in the region’s history (Dunning, 2020). The amount of this precipitation caused cataclysmic waste issues and made streams rise significantly.

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Since numerous occupants lived outside the flood plain, many victims had no insurance. Numerous families are still attempting to recover financially and reconstruct their homes, contingent upon any governmental and neighborhood assistance. Harvey’s effect spread over the country as gas costs plummeted. The disaster constrained almost 30% of oil and gas production, influencing 5% of cross-country yield (Dunning, 2020). Roughly one month after the hurricane event, the refinement facility movement has been continuously recovering.

Natural and Anthropogenic Aspects of the Disaster

This disaster is almost unanimously recognized as natural, but there are several indirect arguments for anthropogenic influence—first, climate change resulting from human action. Higher temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and weaker winds could lead to a stronger hurricane (Liu et al., 2019). Second, economic and political reasons and social ones formed the historical prerequisites that led to the catastrophe. For example, many residents could not afford home insurance and alternative housing in the event of an evacuation. Third, construction along the coastline has led to the clearing of a green zone that absorbs rainfall. Therefore, the disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey is mainly spontaneous but not devoid of certain anthropogenic factors.

Economic benefits dictated construction in floodplain areas historically affected by flooding. Lawyers have cleverly circumvented laws by inventing creative ways to evade responsibility for creating the necessary infrastructure to prevent floods (Barrios & Swamy, 2018). Such developments were even encouraged by the state since there were oil refineries, natural gas, and much more. Hurricane Harvey damaged the economy of both the region and the entire country. Consequently, assumptions and mistakes, circumvention of the law led to a catastrophe that could have been avoided only in the case of historically balanced decisions for the future and more far-sighted plans for the development of the economy.

The attribution of the anthropogenic impact of climate change on the physical characteristics of individual extreme weather events has become a topical issue in science in recent decades. However, such an assessment has only recently become possible for significant hurricanes. These studies assess the amount of precipitation and the factors affecting it, global warming, and other anthropogenic factors. For example, human-induced climate change likely increased Hurricane Harvey’s total rainfall by at least 19% (Wehner et al., 2019). The percentage is large enough to confirm the anthropogenic impact on the hurricane and its consequences.

Operation Structure

It is necessary to review the performance of the emergency operations centers in various activities to assess the performance and effectiveness of the Incident Command System (ICS), which complies with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) requirements. For example, the Dallas Emergency Operations Center conference room has been converted into a medical center to provide emergency care, chronic illness support for residents evacuated from the hurricane. This merger of the center with the Mega-Shelter Medical Clinic indicates timely and accurate operational decisions. In addition, such experience helped develop an organizational framework to improve the identification of logistics needs, coordination, collaboration with other authorities, regulation of supply and management of human resources, and work with prioritization (Liu et al., 2019). This combination has helped improve the standards of effective communication and the level of accountability.

Resilience is a critical component of critical infrastructure security systems. These include health care institutions, the performance of which is essential during natural or artificial disasters. The organizational structure and functions of hospitals should always include a disaster response plan. It should include an evacuation plan, patient care, and more to prevent potential hazards. A much more key component in preventing and preventing the negative consequences of a natural disaster is situational awareness. It means that cross-sectional communication must be done at the highest level. For example, hurricane Harvey was announced 36 hours before the flood, but the authorities responsible for monitoring meteorological changes must warn the relevant authorities well in advance. It also highlights the need for a unified communication system between hospitals, improving the delivery of certain products and resources, and organizing exchanges between nearby clinics. In addition, such an exchange could occur in the case of specific equipment, medicines, or qualified specialists somewhere nearby. This self-management experience greatly accelerates the response to natural disasters and will help save more lives in the future.

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Operational plans rely on previous hurricane incidents, which are standard on the North American mainland. The organization of adaptation of behavior and rapid switching from the usual pace of affairs to increased urgency shows the right direction and preparation for applying existing experience. However, not all activities in such conditions are spelled out in the operational plans. In such situations, there is improvisation, decisions made under the influence of stress, and negative emotions, which should be avoided during natural disasters, especially in hospitals. Lessons learned from past similar cases have shown that government agencies need to provide timely, quick solutions on which the hospital can rely. However, the scheme of action also includes a tandem of legal and medical organizations that has proven itself well in such disasters (Son et al., 2020). Skipping administrative conventions in patient care and increasing various donations are the strengths of organizing operational plans.

The aspect of human resource management in situations of increased urgency remains equally important. On the one hand, employees experience increased stress, fatigue and often have to make difficult prioritization decisions in the face of limited capacity and resources, such as bedding, medicines, and medical devices. On the other hand, the mobilization and flexible emergency use of the stock of available resources shows the true capabilities of the hospital. Moreover, it clarifies what resources need to be delivered shortly and avoid their shortages in the future.

In other areas of hurricane control, local authorities, according to ICS, have posed problems that could harm the environment and the environment. These include conserving fuel and preventing oil splitting and the spread of hazardous materials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided an enormous number of resources for this scene. These include hygiene kits, clean water, meal kits, and baby cots. In addition to them, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Environmental Protection Agency, Texas General Land Office, and the US Coast Guard were involved in urgent joint action. The last instance provided several thousand people and units of equipment for the work on the coast. As a result of the actions of the US Coast Guard, about ten thousand people and more than a thousand pets were saved.

The Public Water Supply Community, along with the Texas Optimization Program and engineers from the Environmental Protection Agency, were jointly responsible for the water supply systems and the provision of clean water to the victims. The joint efforts of several companies have also focused on waste management, hazardous materials, air quality monitoring, and other critical infrastructures such as dams. The authorities’ dissemination of warning information with advice and guidance did not stop even after the tracking of Hurricane Harvey was stopped. As a result, all businesses have been rebuilt, and many people have received new homes and assistance. However, the structure of operations is constantly in need of improvement, and it will be possible to recognize it as ideal only when the damage caused by the natural disaster turns out to be insignificant, does not claim human lives, does not deprive people of housing and does not violate the financial condition.

EOC: Positive and Negative Sides

The positive integration of the Disaster Response Strike Team results from the correct use of the Incident Command System. The large scale of combining all kinds of assistance from all states helped to achieve this goal quickly and clearly with minimal losses. It should also include the application of technology, taking into account the rate of their rapid development. Online alerts, notifications about the current situation made it possible to take coordinated measures to prevent the consequences of the hurricane. The participation of the executive management in all conference calls and meetings, support of the EOC through media inquiries helped to remove some of the responsibilities from the regions. Finally, support from other regions was delivered with quality speed and responsibility.

However, this situation revealed several apparent shortcomings in the overall picture of national disaster management, elimination of consequences, and avoidance of further incidents. One such point is the documentation describing operations during natural disasters, in particular the category of time. Therefore, it is proposed to create a working group to test and optimize cost tracking documentation procedures as a possible solution. Furthermore, a similar revision of regulations is required by both water supply companies and debris management companies. Here, working groups are also needed to implement the experience gained in the documentation of enterprises, and also this will require coordination with government agencies.

The processing of citizens’ appeals, the so-called Public Information Requests, were so numerous that it became almost impossible to work with them due to a lack of workforce. Moreover, many people asked for the same information, which ultimately indicates the failure of the reporting system. This fix could save many workers handling such requests. The solution to the problem is not limited to increasing the workforce or stockpiling for natural disasters. Many problems can be avoided by introducing more advanced technologies that will inform citizens about current events and provide more complex processing of requests, automating responses to similar and similar requests.

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It is worth noting that similar decisions were made after Hurricane Harvey by the relevant authorities (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 2018). However, further development of operational plans is still necessary because the region is not protected from natural disasters. This development should consider the management of induced and potential symptoms of disasters and the inclusion of more preventive measures. Recent events should be guided by a historical retrospective, including forward-looking plans for developing the security of critical infrastructures and the economy of the state. The possible relocation of enterprises from a potentially dangerous area will be costly for the state. However, due to anthropogenic impacts on global warming and the environment, a new hurricane may be even more severe.

Conclusion

Hurricane Harvey caused irreparable damage in the form of lives and specific points of infrastructure. Even though a large part has been restored and the measures taken have contributed to improving the quality of the work of the authorities responsible in the event of natural disasters, the model is still far from ideal. It should be noted that the responsibility for developing these structures lies not only with these organizations but also with the citizens themselves and the state. New technologies should inform citizens with instructions for action in such situations, a more thorough attitude to global anthropogenic factors affecting potential future natural disasters, and the development and testing of rescue and evacuation approaches. The cohesion and capabilities with resources in a quiet time can provide a positive perspective on these issues.

References

Barrios, R., & Swamy, R. (2018). The Post-Harvey “Recovery” Is a Political Disaster. Anthropology News.

Dunning, K. H. (2020). Building resilience to natural hazards through coastal governance: A case study of Hurricane Harvey recovery in Gulf of Mexico communities. Ecological Economics, 176, 1-12.

Liu, E. L., Flax, L. A., Klein, K. R., Fowler, R. L., & Swienton, R. E. (2019). Incident command adaptations during sustained mega-shelter medical clinic operations during 2017 hurricane Harvey response in Dallas, Texas. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 34(s1), s140-s140.

Liu, M., Vecchi, G. A., Smith, J. A., & Knutson, T. R. (2019). Causes of large projected increases in hurricane precipitation rates with global warming. Climate and Atmospheric Science, 2(1), 1-5.

Son, C., Larsen, E., Sasangohar, F., & Camille, S. (2020). Opportunities and challenges for resilient hospital incident management: Case study of a hospital’s response to hurricane Harvey. Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy, 1(1).

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Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. (2018). After action review report. Web.

Wehner, M. F., Patricola, C. M., & Risser, M. D. Estimating the human influence on Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts (Vol. 2017, pp. NH23E-2843).