Environmental Effects of Hurricanes
Hurricanes are one of the major natural disasters that have greater effects on communities, people and residential places (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010). Besides, hurricanes have intense effects on environment. The major impacts of hurricanes are found normally on coastal habitats and estuarine ecologies.
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The strong winds generated by hurricanes have the capability of clearing forest canopies and as such, resulting into stagy modifications in the wooded ecosystems (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).
In fact, intense rainfall, strong winds and gushes in storms usually kill animals directly or indirectly through created changes in the ecosystem. Generally, hurricanes usually cut the food chain and in severe cases cause extinction of endangered species. Jensen (2009) argued that imbalances in the ecosystem caused by hurricanes have profound effects on both animals and plants.
Besides, the storms are capable of transforming the coastal landscape. In essence, strong winds and dangerous waves carry huge volumes of sand, which are deposited along the coastal lines thereby reformatting the entire coastal landscape (Jensen, 2009). In most cases, hurricanes lead to massive changes in the shoreline resulting into complete alteration of the coastal habitats (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).
In fact, estimates show that hurricanes normally change coastal shorelines by over one hundred meters. However, the changes caused by hurricanes differ depending on the intensity and the level of precipitation (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010). In fact, hurricanes create forces that have both direct and indirect environmental reactions, which normally take shorter or longer duration (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).
In terms of marine ecosystem, hurricanes are capable of affecting water quality through nutrient increases as well as sediment disturbances. Studies on the effects of hurricanes indicate that near shore water quality is affected mostly as runoffs bring more nutrients with decreased oxygenation processes (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).
Principally, increased nutrient content and little oxygen decrease the salinity, which dramatically changes the near shore marine ecosystem. Besides, the increased concentration of chemicals including nitrogen and phosphorus characterize the near shore water for long periods after storm.
In addition, increased nutrients result in overgrowth of phytoplankton and reduced levels of oxygen, which cause deaths of millions of marine species (Jensen, 2009). Moreover, the changes in waterways and near shore ecosystem result in the death of most of the organisms.
The high currents and massive waves have greater effects on offshore marine environment. In principle, high currents often clip off various species including sponges, sea whips and corals from their substrate bases (Adams & Berry, 2012). The sheared off sponges are carried hundreds of kilometers and deposited in wide-ranging brackets of fragments along the coastlines (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).
Besides, the high waves and strong currents have the ability of wiping off species. For instance, Hurricane Andrew of august 1992 led to the disappearance of spiny lobsters along the Caribbean coastline. In addition, losses of certain species of sea grasses were also recorded. Essentially, the damages of certain marine species were attributed to changes in water temperatures, degree of alkalinity or acidity and low oxygen concentration.
Generally, hurricanes have devastating effects on environment. In fact, hurricanes have been cited as critical in the evolution of the tropical ecosystem (Kruczynski & Fletcher, 2010).The natural tropical forest covers are normally vulnerable to increased effects of anthropogenic factors such as dribbled petroleum and industrial effluents, which are also associated with hurricanes (Adams & Berry, 2012).
Most entities studying environmental impacts of hurricanes indicate that approximately over 95,000 tons of oil and gas are spilled during hurricanes. The spillovers change the tropical environment particularly at the mouth of rivers and shallow marine ecosystems (Jensen, 2009). Large volumes of oil can lead to the death of various species due to increased acidity and low oxygen concentrations.
During hurricanes, large volumes of accumulated fresh water in higher grounds are drained in coastal areas, which cause rapid drops of seawater salinity. The changes in saline conditions have greater impacts on the marine biota (Adams & Berry, 2012).
In fact, marine lives such as turtles are greatly affected by oil spillovers and drops in salinity after hurricanes (Jensen, 2009). Generally, hurricanes cause long-lasting changes in both tropical and marine ecosystem.
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Public Health Concerns Resulting from the Evacuation of Hospitals during Hurricanes
Disasters such as hurricanes are devastating particularly in areas where the storms make landfalls. However, hurricanes can be predicted and response management to the devastating effects can be planned ahead of the landfall. In fact, one of the responses entails evacuation of communities residing on the path of hurricanes. Hospital evacuations are also considered severe situations (Adams & Berry, 2012).
Hospital evacuations are not recommended due to the safety and health of the patients as well as the medical staff. Studies indicate that over 90% of patients evacuated out of original hospitals during disasters either die or sustain injuries.
According to Bish, Agca and Glick (2011), planning is a critical part of the hospitals’ emergencies management. In fact, evacuation planning is significant for the success of emergency management during disasters.
During emergency evacuations, the safety and wellbeing of the patients remain major health concerns. However, the public health is concerned with the availability of fresh water and getting rid of accumulated wastewater (Bish et al., 2011).
In other words, the major public health concerns integrate the availability of fresh supplies of drinking water as well as the removal of wastewater (Adams & Berry, 2012). Regarding the provision of safety drinking water, public health workers should include the elements of raw water supply, drinking water treatment and drinking water distribution in the mitigation procedures (Adams & Berry, 2012).
On the other hand, the removal of wastewater involves three mitigation elements including wastewater collection, wastewater treatment and discharge of the treated wastewater to the environment.
Fresh Supplies of Drinking Water
In terms of drinking water supply, hospitals should understand the sources of water supply and determine contamination levels of such water. However, in most cases, the water supply sources are rarely contaminated by the hurricanes (Bish et al., 2011). During the evacuation process, the supply of water is critical not only for patients but also for the medical staff.
Further, ensuring that the evacuating and receiving hospital is supplied with safety drinking water a major public health concern during the evacuation process. In circumstances where supplies are contaminated, the treatment issue becomes more important. In fact, during disasters, most hospitals lack supplies of fresh drinking water. As such, water treatment strategies remain essential.
Waste Water Removal
The manner in which accumulated wastewater is dealt with remains a critical concern for public health during hospital evacuation (Adams & Berry, 2012). In most cases, the safety of the medical staff and the patients are considered to be in critical conditions when water levels can accumulate above five meters of the first floor (Jensen, 2009).
Under such circumstances, finding ways through which the accumulated water can be removed in order to facilitate safe evacuations is critical. In most cases, public workers are advised to treat and dispose water to the environment (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009).
Occupational Health Concerns for Hospital Staff during a Hurricane
Health activities during hurricane disasters can be dangerous particularly the clean up after the catastrophe (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009). Health workers, especially emergency response supervisors should be aware of the hazards that may result from response activities and devise ways though which safety measures can be enforced (Adams & Berry, 2012).
Safety of the Patients and Medical Staff
The main aim of hospitals during the evacuation is to reduce the risks associated with the transfer of the patients. The expectations are that the patients should arrive at destinations in the original or in better conditions (Childers, Visagamurthy & Taaffe, 2009).
Studies indicate that disasters such as hurricanes pose greater psychological risks to patients particularly where the patients are knowledgeable about impending disasters. Besides, hospitals face greater challenges in the transportation of the patients. In fact, the transfer risks often raise the safety concerns of the patients. The greatest challenge hospitals face is that the patients are not a homogeneous community.
In fact, patients are categorized according to the conditions and the type of the disease. Studies indicate that patients that are chronically ill normally die during or after the evacuation (Childers et al., 2009). In fact, the safeties of such patients are highly considered during transportation processes.
Estimates put forward that during the hurricane Katrina, about 90% of critically ill patients died during the evacuation (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009).
Besides, patients suffering from communicable diseases can easily affect other patients as well as the medical staff. Majority of patients during disasters such as hurricanes suffer from communicable diseases (Kue, Brown, Ness & Scheulen, 2011).
The increased spreads of diseases pose greater risks to both the patients and the medical staff during evacuation (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009). Therefore, the safety of both the patients and the medical staff should also be greatly considered.
Health of the Patients and Medical Staff
Hospitals tend to maintain the health status of the patients during the evacuation process. In critically ill patients, risks associated with transportations are greatly considered. In fact, most patients die at the transportation stage (Kue et al., 2011).
Besides, the health of support medical staff is also put into consideration (Adams & Berry, 2012). During the evacuation process, supporting equipment and facilities are not enough to keep both the patient and the medical staff safe (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009).
Generally, it is critical for hospitals to develop an emergency response management plans that take into consideration all the health concerns of both the health workers and the patients. Evacuations require extensive preparedness and planning due to the complexity and associated risks (Adams & Berry, 2012).
In fact, evacuations are only considered in situations where the medical staff and patients face great dangers. Even though resources and budgetary constraints limit most evacuations, the major aim is to minimize risks of both the patients and the staff (Tayfur & Taaffe, 2009).
Adams, L. M., & Berry, D. (2012). Who will show up? Estimating ability and willingness of essential hospital personel to report to work in response to a disaster. Online Journal of Issue in Nursing, 17(2), 8-9.
Bish, D. R., Agca, E. & Glick, R. (2011). Decision support for hospital evacuation and emergency response. Annals of Operations Research, 94(16), 1123-1129.
Childers, A., Visagamurthy, K., & Taaffe, K. (2009). Prioritizing patients for evacuation from a health-care facility. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2137(1), 38–45.
Jensen, J. N. (2009). Public health and environmental infrastructure implications of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Collingdale, PA: DIANE Publishing.
Kruczynski, W. L. & Fletcher, P. J. (2010). Major hurricanes can have major impacts on marine environment. Tropical Connections, 4(5), 170-173.
Kue, R., Brown, P., Ness, C., & Scheulen, J. (2011). Adverse clinical events during intrahospital transport by a specialized team: a preliminary report. American Journal of Critical Care, 20(2), 153–161.
Tayfur, E., & Taaffe, K. (2009). A model for allocating resources during hospital evacuations. Computers and Industrial Engineering, 57(4), 1313–1323.