For the InstructorThese student materials complement the Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.
Policy, natural hazards, disasters, and the emergency management cycle
A policy is a principle or set of principles that guides decisions and tries to produce sensible, positive outcomes or to avoid the negative effects of some behaviors. A policy can apply to governments, businesses, other groups (such as sports teams or college courses), and even individuals. Policies are often established by governing bodies and implemented by executive officers. Rules or laws use punishments to require people or groups to practice or not to practice certain behaviors, but policies only suggest ways for people or groups to do the right things or to avoid doing the wrong things. Tsunami and hurricane storm surge policies, therefore, aim to help the public avoid or minimize harm from these natural hazards and recover quickly and efficiently from them when they strike.
Natural hazards and disasters are different, but closely related, concepts. Natural hazards are geophysical events that pose threats to human life or health, to the natural or built environment on which people rely for life support, and to things that people value such as economic wealth or material possessions. Natural hazards are potentialities; that is, they have not yet happened, but could occur at some time in the future. When a natural hazard such as a tsunami or hurricane does become active, it can trigger a disaster. Natural disasters are the major adverse human events resulting from natural hazards. Disasters are typically associated with loss of life, impaired human health, destruction of the natural and built environment, financial damage, and loss of land and possessions. The severity of the disaster is a function of the magnitude of the geophysical event coupled with the vulnerability of the people and place, which was the topic of Module 10.
The emergency management cycle is used to understand appropriate human preparation for and response to disaster, including a disaster resulting from a coastal hazard. The emergency management cycle can be divided into four stages: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Mitigation includes all efforts that a person, household, community, or any other social unit takes to make a disaster less likely to happen or to reduce the negative effects if a natural hazard were to occur. Mitigation activities occur well before a natural hazard strikes and can be structural, such as building a sea wall, or non-structural, such as developing a warning system.
In contrast to mitigation, preparedness can take place right before the natural hazard strikes. Its goal is to make sure that the individual or social unit knows which tools to possess, what activities to undertake, and how to use those tools and do those activities before a natural hazard occurs, during the hazardous event, and immediately after disaster strikes. In preparing for a tsunami or hurricane, for instance, important preparedness activities include – among many other possible actions – knowing when to evacuate, which destination to evacuate to, and what evacuation route to take.
Response is the emergency assistance that takes place during or immediately after a disaster. Its purpose is to save lives, treat injuries, and reduce property damage while meeting the most fundamental needs — water, food, and shelter — of the people affected by the event. The response period is quite stressful both to emergency managers, who face limited time, information, and resources, and to the public, who face evacuation, family separation, and the loss of property and loved ones.
During recovery, individuals, families, communities, and governments repair and reconstruct what has been damaged by or lost to disaster. At the same time, recovery presents an opportunity to reduce the risk of similar catastrophe in the future – in other words, to start mitigation activities and thereby start the emergency management cycle again. In reaction to the disaster, governments usually provide substantial resources for recovery, including economic recovery, housing recovery, and individual, family, and social recovery, and possibly mitigation of potential future natural hazard events.
The following sections of the module explore mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery policies for tsunami and hurricane storm surge. The aim is to show how smart coastal hazard and disaster policy can reduce costs while reducing injury, saving lives, and preventing damage to property.