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Coping with Natural Disasters

Over the past 20 years, the number of reported natural disasters has grown substantially. Whether it’s been through earthquakes, destructive tornados, or enormous tsunamis, our planet has experienced more than its share of casualties. In the last 50 years, man has greatly improved the quality of everyday life; however, these “improvements” have also impacted the stability of our ozone layer, and contributed to higher levels of pollution which have forced our planet’s environmental structure to adapt. Industrial development in the form of deforestation, as well as other destructive practices, have led to sharp climate changes that greatly increase the risk and intensity of natural disasters.

Thankfully, while it may be difficult or impossible to avoid certain natural disasters, it is entirely within our power to limit the risks of, as well as damage caused by, these unpredictable storms. For example, certain environmental groups have action plans for emergency situations, especially in high-risk areas regularly exposed to the effects of major natural disasters.

What are the Common Types of Natural Disasters that Strike our Planet?

Cyclones : Over recent years, cases of various types of cyclones have increased, causing major worldwide damage and loss of life. If there existed an official list of the planet’s most devastating catastrophes, cyclones would hold a very high spot. They consist of a very concentrated area of ultra-violent winds. These winds form tornadoes and, if powerful enough, can rip entire buildings out of their foundations, as well as hurl heavy objects and vehicles across the sky.

Earthquakes : Earthquakes are actually quite common on certain continents. Depending on their magnitude, their intensity can range from minor (a very light, barely-perceptible shake), to devastatingly major (causing large buildings and bridges to collapse, and massive cracks to open up in the ground). As tectonic plates shift constantly, there is a huge amount of tension built up between them. Once this tension reaches a breaking point, the plates give way and release tension. This release is manifested in the form of intense ground vibrations, which have the potential to cause extensive property damage and death. If earthquakes take place along the coast, there is the added risk of a tsunami forming due to the intensity of the tremors.

Droughts : Not all natural disasters appear in the form of powerful storms, though. Among catastrophes that hit agricultural areas, drought is the most feared of them all. This extreme lack of water causes extensive and irreparable damage to crops, and can kill large numbers of livestock. Seeing as how the agricultural industry, as well as its workers, depend on their crops and livestock for survival, the level of human suffering can be quite high, as well – especially if the drought is sustained over a lengthy period of time. Droughts are quite common in areas with particularly hot climates, and can also lead to major fires.

Floods : Heavy rainfall can cause major flooding in certain areas of the country. All it takes is one body of water to overflow, for an entire town to be flooded. This type of event is cause by a great deal of rain falling in a short period of time. In addition to flooding, excessive amounts of rainfall can also cause landslides that drag and destroy everything in their paths.

Snow Storms : As Canadians, we’ve grown accustomed to, but are still annoyed by, yearly snowstorms and heavy snow fall. While we are very well equipped to deal with these types of storms, they nonetheless have the potential to cause serious road accidents, and can isolate portions of our population that reside in more remote populations – an element that can make life very difficult for emergency responders, and victims, in the event of an emergency situation. While heavy snow fall is something that barely fazes us anymore, our erratic winter weather can still cause disastrous catastrophes when elements align perfectly. For example, in 1998, the population of southern Quebec was hit by a major ice storm. For 5 consecutive days, freezing rain fell from the sky, covering the majority of the island of Montreal and its surrounding areas. Freezing on impact, this rain created a thick layer of ice on and around all surfaces, causing major transportation problems, as well as injuries. In addition, the extra weight on tree branches, telephone poles and wires, and power lines, caused many of these structures to collapse, leaving the majority of residents without power, heat, or a means of communication.

Measures taken to Prepare and Prevent in the Event of Natural Disasters

In the distant past, the only way to transmit a message of warning was word of mouth. Witnesses of a natural disaster would run to tell the rest of their neighbours, as well as towns in the storm’s path. It’s very safe to say that we’ve come a long way since. Our present alert systems make use of powerful technology that allows professionals to predict the formation of storms, as well as potential catastrophes and disasters, and warn the population way ahead of time. These predictions, based on land, air, and satellite observations, are quite accurate, and can greatly minimize the risk of casualties.

Additionally, the UN has developed a strategy to provide support, on a global scale, in the event of a natural disaster. The goal of this strategy is to not only provide support for countries already hit by a disaster, but to provide an action plan to actively prevent and minimize casualties before a storm hits. By instilling a “culture of prevention” in any given country’s population, the UN is able to inform and empower residents in the event of a calamity. This strategy entails:

  • Prevention plans customized for each country using technical and human resources.
  • Reducing the risk of damage by implementing organizational structures, as well as crisis management programs, in order to efficiently deal with any given natural disaster.
  • Being aware of the risks. Certain countries are predisposed to more violent natural disasters than others. Therefore, it is crucial to clearly understand the consequences of a disaster for each specific country.
  • Being able to successfully predict disasters in order to be able to cope with the events, as well as to develop an effective general alert system.
  • Educating the public about risks and consequences. Education allows for the improvement of security for whole populations, because each individual is required to recognize existing high-risk zones, in order to collaborate with residents and humanitarian organizations.
  • Teach residents to act quickly. Each country needs to be aware of their risks for potential natural disasters, and ready to act quickly. 

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