Washington is situated in the Pacific Coast, Northeast of the United States. It lies in a geographical region endowed with rain forests though some parts are dominated by a semi desert. The Washington state has varied climatic conditions with the oceanic climate dominating the west and drier conditions in the east. The annual temperature range on average stands between 39-52ºF. The Washington community is a big community accommodating residents from all walks of life engaged in various tools of trade. The community has been victim to various catastrophic disasters and emergencies that have called for emergency responses in the past.
The Washington State has been a victim of both natural, man made and hybrid disasters. A disaster can be briefly described as a sudden calamitous incidence that occurs and leads to loss of lives, massive damage to property, causes unexpected hardships. A disaster or emergency in this case is an event that is impossible to effectively contain by use of ordinary procedures and resources (Schneid & Collins, 2000). Natural disasters are those that occur majorly because of acts of nature, they occur slowly and insidiously before they severely manifest outwardly. They have an aspect of predictability because some areas are more prone to some particular disasters though little can be done to control their occurrence. Examples of such disasters in the Washington State include landslides, wind storms, earthquakes, ice storms, volcanoes among others. Man made disasters are those whose occurrence has entirely been induced by man in his daily activities for example those occurrences caused by biological agents, terrorism, explosions among many others. Hybrid disasters on the other hand are triggered by a combination or rather both natural and human actions such as deforestation that are current resulting to the current situation of global warming and subsequently affecting sea levels of cities on the coastal lines leading to floods.
In the case of areas that are as highly vulnerable to disasters and emergencies such as Washington then the only way to mitigate and minimize the impact of this occurrences is by carrying out vulnerability and hazard assessments. These procedures are basically very important because they help in the determination and identification of mitigation priorities which is just a small component of emergency management. Additionally such an analysis will give us the capacity and forms the foundation for us to create appropriate preparedness, response and recovery strategies for disasters in our community. A hazard is simply described as a disaster waiting to happen or any phenomena that has the potential to cause harm if the necessary steps are not taken.
Vulnerability analysis on the other hand allows us to be able to know our susceptibility to a disaster including the extent of damage to be expected. Vulnerability assessment and hazard identification are critical most importantly because it is too costly to address disasters after they have happened additionally we can prevent the occurrence of some disasters if we are able to early enough anticipate their likely locations and how they are expected to occur, (DHS). The table below shows an analysis of the hazards in Washington additionally indicating the susceptibility of the locals to those hazards.
Selected hazards, vulnerability assessment
This refers simply to sliding snow masses that grow as they descend as a consequence of collecting more material as they go downwards. In the state of Washington more than one hundred and ninety people have been killed as a result of avalanches. Their occurrence in these state mainly concentrates in the mountainous region that include for example Mount Selkirk range, Blue Mountains, Olympic Mountains and the Cascade area. In these areas the vulnerability increases as a result of the frequent travels to and recreational activities within the areas. In this State Avalanches have led to loss of lives and costs the government more than twenty million yearly because avalanches occur at least every winter season.
Droughts are described as conditions of severe dryness that lead to reduction in water and soil moisture to levels below those that can effectively sustain economic, animal, and plant systems. Most areas in the Washington State are vulnerable to spells of drought, (FEMA, 2001). Droughts have had severe economic impacts on the states affecting major investors for example in the past ski resorts have been forced to bankruptcy due to the unavailability of snow packs. Drought spells have also led to forest fires and even employment.
The Washington State is ranked third in America when it comes to its vulnerability to earthquakes. This State has a history of frequent or recurring earthquakes incidences. This is because the State records more than one thousand incidences of earthquakes every year. These earthquakes have more often than not caused disastrous slides that have led to not less than 227 dollars in losses every year and deaths of people and damage to property that can not be quantified, (FEMA, 2001).
This State is usually susceptible to surface, river, tidal and flash floods. The occurrence of these floods is mostly during early spring and winter seasons mainly because of the rainy weather, melting and breakaway ice. Flooding damages in the State are said to exceed that of any other natural hazards occurring in this region. Specifically the episodes have led to massive damage of homes, utilities, crops and even loss of life, (DHS, 2004). They have also often cut off cities for days therefore bringing the economy to a stand still. The public need to be availed with information regarding the most hazardous areas and services such as flood insurance as a way of enhancing preparedness. Emergency procedures that constitute early warning and monitoring systems and evacuation procedures should also be put in place before hand.
Tsunamis are usually generated by landslides, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. They can cause massive damage to utilities, port facilities and large number of deaths running to thousands of people. Previously the State encountered a Tsunami that cost it damages worth 105, 000 in dollars in 1964, (FEMA, 2001). Warning systems, early evacuations and implementing the appropriate structural designs can help minimize its effects in future.
Basically all this hazards cause great losses in terms of money and lead to loss of critical public utilities, infrastructure, human life, displacement of people and hampered mobility. They therefore command equal attention and priority when it comes to preparing measures to mitigate their impacts meaning their severity is almost equal.
In conclusion the strength of this Emergency Preparedness Plan is that it gives a foundation upon which we can make rational decisions regarding the preparedness measures that need to be instituted by our council. The plan also identifies the most common hazards that occur in the Washington State creating the basis on which the public can be alerted to enhance their preparedness. The major weakness of this plan though is that it lacks infrastructural and structural backing to be able to implement it effectively. The risk is therefore that the plan might end up becoming a paper tiger or just another document that will be shelved and therefore not be useful to the community. The proper way to curb these is simply for the authorities to consider all documents submitted to them with the seriousness they deserve.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (2004).National Response Plan (NRP) Course Summary (ISO 800).Retrieved on July 27th, 2009, http://www.wnysmart.org/references/NRP summary.pdf
Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA). (2001). Washington State. Hazard Identification and Vulnerability Assessment. Retrieved on 27th July, 2009 from http://18.104.22.168/search?q=cache:qk_5uCqHn1QJ:okanogandem.org/docume ts/Washington/HIVA.pdf+wHAT+IS+a+HAZARD+AND+VULNERABILITY ANALYSIS+washington+state
Schneid, T. & Collins L. (2000).Disaster management and preparedness. U.S: CRC Press, p 2-3