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Disaster Preparedness: Personal Emergency and Disaster Plan Research Paper

Introduction and Assessment of Threats

According to Wee and Myers (4), “Disaster is an event concentrated in time and space in which a society or a relatively self-sufficient subdivision of a society undergoes severe danger and incurs losses to its members and physical appurtenances that the social structure is disrupted and the fulfillment of all or some of the essential functions of the society is prevented”.

Disaster can be caused by a number of factors that are either natural or man-made. It can cause physical, emotional or spiritual harm to the affected subjects.

They can be classified as natural if they happen as a result of natural occurrences, accidental if they arise as a result of man-made tools and failures or intentional when they are planned by malicious people ready to harm for personal gain or destruction. All this can affect a student in college or even at home.

Natural disasters include fire, floods, tornadoes, earth quakes, mud slides, landslides, and volcanic eruptions. Tornadoes occur from time to time in the United States. A tornado is, “a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud.

It is usually spawned by a thunderstorm (or as a result of a tornado)” National Weather Service (2009). In fact, the ‘tornadoproject.com’ indicates that 12 tornadoes occurred in the year 2008 in the United States. The effects are very devastating. An example of the most recent occurrence is Joplin Missouri Tornado which took place this year.

From this incident, Americans learnt a lesson as quoted on the Red Cross website, “… the five-year anniversary of tornados with a dinner honoring of first responders, commemorative events in Mississippi and a canvassing event in which volunteers distributed information and resources to help be better prepared for future disasters” (Red Cross).

The other type of disaster is accidental disasters. In this category, it will be appropriate to quote the release of radioactive materials from nuclear reactors in Japan when the earthquake occurred. This kind of disaster cannot be classified as natural because the nuclear reactors were manmade though the destruction of the nuclear reactors may have been caused by natural forces.

It is well known that powerful radioactive particles have harmful effects on the human body. For instance, Monmonier (174) illustrates the effects of radioactive elements when he elaborates that, “trouble arises when a radon atom disintegrates into a polonium atom which is its “daughter” and releases an alpha particle, a burst of matter that can damage genes when radioactive decay occurs inside the lungs.”

When it comes to intentional disasters, cyber-crime tops the list. In fact, the United States Department of Justice claims that the main crime activities are, “electronic penetrations, data thefts, and cyber attacks on critical information systems.” These may also include other activities like racial discrimination, sexual abuse and exposure of personal information on social sites.

Now, what are the threats associated with these kinds of disasters? The most common types of natural disasters are tornados and floods. FEMA indicates that, “when tornados come onto land, it comes with heavy rain, strong winds and large waves that can damage buildings, trees and cars. The strong waves are called a storm surge”. The Floods may also cause similar havoc to humanity.

Since the floods mainly destroy infrastructure, the consequences are usually large. For instance, it brings along contamination of water which leads to water borne diseases and air pollution due to exposure of sewerage waste.

Floods and tornados as well destroy housing and the final effect is destruction of shelter. This in turn leads to deaths through diseases associated with cold conditions. In the tropical regions, the aftermath could be stagnant water and thus breeding mosquitoes which spread ‘Malaria’.

Accidental disasters are associated with a number of threats. Fire is very useful but it can be very destructive. When fire breaks out in a large building, it may be as a result of an electrical fault or a cause which may make it difficult to get out a building. When fires break out suddenly, electricity must be switched off; hence, people are left in darkness.

In some cases, fire may block the exits and can cause loss of lives. In extreme fires, destruction is widespread to an extent that it affects the supply chain of services like piped water, gas and electricity.

In 2002, the United States spent huge amounts of money to stop forest fires as indicated by Longley (200), “On 17th, June 2002, an estimated $9,403,000 was spent battling 196 wild land fires that scorched over 51,000 acres of land in parts of 11 states”. The fire was associated with a crash of an air tanker plane. From the discussion, it is evident that accidental disasters are common.

Intentional disasters are frequent, but the most terrific is terrorism. Terrorism may be conducted through cyber-crimes, physical damage through bombing of innocent people and suicide bombing in the name of revenge. Terrorism is mainly practiced by extremists. Examples of acts of terrorism are the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on the 11th September, 2001.

The effects were devastating, ranging from losing of eyesight to death. In most cases, the perpetrators direct their anger against some government policies that in their opinion undermine them. The main problem is that the anger is directed towards innocent people. All learning centers must install a disaster management and special centers to limit the effects.

Student Vulnerability to the specific Disaster Threats

The threats associated with the disasters named above may immensely affect any student directly or indirectly. The worst cases that can be assumed are explained in this essay. Terrorism can be conducted in many ways which can directly affect students which is the reason for students to be aware. Cyber terrorism can affect students who are ignorant.

Cyber terrorism is mainly used to cause panic or explosion and jamming of networks (Wee and Myers 112). Cyber criminals can easily attack students using personal computers. In other areas of terrorism like suicide bombing, other acts include the use of missiles and time bombs which can adversely affect students. In fact, terrorism is fatal.

Fire is very destructive and in most cases, fire may cut off distribution of major commodities which can last for a long period of time. Electricity may be lost, water services cut off and other essential services. Even though the lives of students may not be lost, they may be put in a quagmire. The effect of this is devastating.

On the other hand, floods, tornados and other natural disasters can be very detrimental in the sense that they physically destroy buildings, railway lines, water supplies and other physical amenities. The above disasters can lead to immediate death but if one lives to see the effects, nothing can be worse than those effects. In the recent past, Haiti earthquake caused huge humanitarian havoc as well as the Japan earthquake.

Specific Plans of Action for Personal Safety

It is of paramount importance to take care of oneself in times of disaster before thinking about the government. Individuals must take personal initiatives to learn about the available resources and procedures that help in mitigating the adverse effects of disasters. The government and other non-governmental institutions have specific procedures of educating and helping in the mitigation of effects of disasters.

The following are the actual things to follow in case of a disaster:

  1. In case of a fire outbreak one should:
    1. Not panic.
    2. Sound the alarm by breaking the alarm glass.
    3. Look for the emergency exit and move out in an orderly manner.
    4. Not use the elevator.
    5. If you are safe, assemble at the fire assembly point.
    6. If you are locked in a room, open the window and shout for help.
  2. In case of an earthquake:
    1. Don’t hang heavy objects over the bed.
    2. Locate master switches and know how to switch them off if necessary.
    3. Keep on hand one or more flashlights, portable radios, plenty of fresh batteries for each, a First Aid kit; an all-purpose fire extinguisher; at least seven gallons of fresh water per person; and nonperishable ready-to-eat foods.
    4. Hide under a strong table when it occurs; remember that everything moves so be ready to move with it.
    5. Stay away from windows and brick masonry places, Wait until the earthquake has temporarily stopped, then get your emergency bag, put on a helmet or other protective head covering and make your way to an open space.
    6. Don’t go far away from people that you are familiar with.
    7. If you are outside stay away from buildings.
    8. After the earthquake be aware of aftershocks and follow the proceedings from radio to be safe.
  3. In cyber terrorism, it is very important to understand oneself and maintain self-esteem as much as possible to avoid intimidation and fear. However, while using the internet, several precautions must be taken. It is very important to keep the following rules: “
    1. All accounts should have passwords and the passwords should be unusual and difficult to guess.
    2. Change the network configuration when defects become known.
    3. Check with venders for upgrades and patches.
    4. Audit systems and check logs to help in detecting and tracing intruders.
    5. If you are unsure about the safety of a site, or receive suspicious email from an unknown address, don’t access it. It could be troublesome.” (Longley, 201)

If a student realizes that the internet resource or rather there is somebody threatening him/her from the internet, he/she should report to the authorities and seek an opinion from close friends (it might help).


In Conclusion, the government and institutions of learning should be on high alert to reduce the risks involved in these kinds of disasters. Above all, if a disaster happens, then specific emergency hotlines must be used to save life. It is also important to take care of each other in case of an emergency especially in terms of first aid and reporting to relevant authorities.

The Indiana University has done quite a number of activities that help mitigate the effects of disasters but it can do more. Some of the activities that can be adopted are intensifying disaster preparedness and management, education, getting constantly in touch with the national disaster offices and enforcing disaster prevention measures within the university that include the use of fire wall on the internet.

The most important plan is to strictly follow government advisories and warnings. This means that, if you have been asked to evacuate from a certain location that has been predicted to have an emergency disaster, you should do so as soon as possible. Remember, the advisories are supposed to help you avoid any harm and destruction of property.

Works Cited

FEMA, Know the Facts, 2011. Web.

Longley, Robert. “Forest Fires: Impact and Information.” Web.

Monmonier, Mark. Cartographies of Danger: Mapping Hazards in America. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1998. Print.

Recent Tornadoes. “US Killer Tornadoes of 2008.” Web.

. “Red Cross Commemorates Five-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.” Web.

United States Department of Justice, “” 2011. Web.

Wee, F. David and Myers Diane, Disaster Mental Health Services: A Primer for Practitioners. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2005. Print.

WhatHappensNow. “Hurricane and Tornado Facts.” Web.

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