Located in the analysis below, you will find a review of The Response To The 2011 Joplin, Missouri, Tornado Lessons Learned Study developed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) published in December, 2011. This analysis is focused on mitigation activities regarding this disastrous event. It will provide insight on positive outcomes of multiple mitigation actions along with identifying areas of opportunity. Additionally, it will examine the ICS (Incident Command Systems) implemented during this event in terms of mitigation actions.
In the article, FEMA outlines lessons learned developed through interviews and data analysis. FEMA clearly outlines both strengths demonstrated, along with areas of improvement. A common theme throughout the article is the importance of an interdisciplinary and cross departmental approach to developing solutions and carrying out response activities. This includes federal, state, county, local, private sector, non-profit, and voluntary organizations. Additionally, by including the Whole Community Approach, FEMA demonstrates a progressive commitment to improving planning and recovery. Many of the issues discussed in the article are congruent with D. Mileti’s (1999) essential steps to hazard mitigation, including (p. 9-14):
Building local networks, capabilities, and consensus
Establishing a holistic government framework
Building a national database
Providing comprehensive education and training
And sharing knowledge
As defined by Dr. R. Perry and Dr. M. Lindell (2007), mitigation activity is an “attempt to eliminate the causes of a disaster by modifying the agent, introducing technological innovation, or modifying the human use system” (p. 29). Additionally, they note that mitigation actions are taken to eradicate the cause of the disaster, lower the likelihood of it happening again, or reduce the effect of the event (Perry & Lindell, 2007, p. 5). First, I will examine the possibility of eliminating tornado formation. It is hard to imagine being able to eliminate the cause of a tornado through any known intervention. However, recently meteorologists and climatologist are questioning climate change as a factor in tornado volumes/severity, and the effect our society has on the climate. This is addressed in the USA Today article How Does Global Warming Effect Tornados (Borenstein, 2013). The FEMA article does not address the effects of the human impact on our environment and the possibility of our society increasing the severity/frequency of tornado formation. It should also be noted that climate change is still being debated in terms of the human impact on the environment. One may argue that through implementing policies limiting greenhouse gas emissions, this may have a mitigating effect in tornado formation.
Another issue not address in the FEMA Lessons Learned (2007) article is the development of communities in areas that are known for high tornado activity. The article does however note that Joplin is located in the area of the country known as “Tornado Alley” and that this area “experiences a high frequency of tornadoes each year” (p. 7). Therefore, another mitigating action could be to avoid developing communities in these high risk areas. I personally don’t believe that this is an appropriate mitigating factor due to the overall risk not being high enough to move entire communities.
The article does however provide multiple mitigation activities that can effect the overall impact of a tornado and preparations to limit the loss of life, property, and effectively carrying out a recovery. Below you will find a listing of the positive mitigation activities outlined in the article (FEMA, 2011, p. 5-6).
Participated in large scale disaster simulations
Applied for grants which allowed for greater resources during disasters
Developed relationships and aid agreements with local/state organizations