Effective Evacuation

We often focus on food, medication, and other concrete materials when discussing means of taking care of people.  In this article  regarding evacuation plans, the personal safety of a community is the central issue.  The recent events in Japan have brought to question the effectiveness of evacuation plans in times of crisis.  Here in the U.S., we have witnessed several natural disasters recently like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita for which the failure to execute evacuation plans had detrimental repercussions.

While it is essential to create evacuation plans in order to prepare for unsafe situations that might arise, it is impossible to account for all scenarios that might occur.  However, we can do what is humanly possible to have plans for events like the tsunami and the nuclear power plant situation in Japan.  In order for these plans to be effective, cities, states, and countries need to communicate with the communities around them regarding established plans to avoid mishaps.  Although officials were able to avoid issue, the evacuation plans for the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station in 1979 is a prime example of the consequences of lack of communication.  If needed, the people would have been stuck on the small bridge, leaving them exposed to harm with nowhere to go.  With massive numbers of people being moved at once from a single area, communication is critical.

Not only is it necessary to establish these plans, but they need to be known to the population and regularly updated to ensure maximum potential for success.  How can we make the best of the situation?  Issuing copies of important plans to residents, employers, and others involved could be a start.  Familiarity with an evacuation plan will be crucial in a highly stressful crisis.  Keeping people informed may lead to greater efficiency when evacuation is necessary, which can ultimately save more lives.  Another group that should be familiar with these plans are the officials involved, such as members of government or police and fire departments.  These are the people who have authority, so as leaders they need to be fully prepared.

One issue that I have never really thought of until reading this article is the evacuation of places like nursing homes and hospitals.  Plans for populations that cannot care for themselves, especially in crisis situations, would require more attention because they involve not only the people who need assistance but also those providing that aid.  Often means of transportation like buses would probably be needed to bring larger numbers of people to a safer location, increasing the amount of communication necessary for success.  I am now wondering, how many people are left out of these evacuation plans?  Who is not on that “evacuation bus”?  Can everyone be accounted for when crisis arises?

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One response to “Effective Evacuation

  1. Thinking about evacuation plans during natural disasters is so difficult. Last semester in Evidence-Based Public Health, we watched “When the Levees Broke” which was Spike Lee’s documentary on Hurricane Katrina. The film mostly focused on the cause and ineffectiveness to get help to the people that most need it. In briefly reading about these situations, I feel that it just comes down to ‘survival of the fittest.’ In other words, those with the most resources and power are the first to get out. Bringing up nursing homes and hospitals is a legitimate concern because those people are often the most vulnerable, and ignored, during these crises. Great article that touched on a very topical issue.

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