Impact of Four Key Events in the Evolution of Disaster Management


According to Vavrilesky (2010), effective disaster management is necessary for the protection of life and property. Over the years, disaster management has evolved to what it has become now. In this regard, the modern concept of disaster management has benefited from the insights of the previous disasters. The various events in the disaster management have made it possible to learn from various disasters. This paper examines various events that have contributed to the evolution of disaster management.

Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in Ukraine, 1986

The 1986 nuclear plant disaster provides lots of lessons for the disaster management team in various perspectives. The disaster itself is unique in that such a high risk operation could be handled by less trained personnel just few kilometers from the city. After the incident, the disaster management team began to evacuate people within 36 hours of the disaster to ensure that people are safe. Eventually, more than 100,000 people were evacuated and resettled in a safe environment away from the disaster (Adamski, Kline, & Tyrrell, 2006). Despite these attempts, studies have found several weaknesses in the manner in which the disaster was managed and these provide valuable lessons for the future disaster management.  

One of the valuable lessons that can be learned from this disaster is that safety should be central to the design and development of any project with perceived human and environmental threats. Currently, many institutions have been set up to assess the safety of the design and the development of any program that can potentially hurt the existence of the humans. Without safety precautions, there are high risks to the humans and the surrounding environment with respect to the disaster. Therefore, it is prudent that extensive emergency preparedness to be done before the commencement of any program. Emergency planning should be reflected from the design process so that emergency management can be successful. For example, it is evident that emergency planning was not properly done during the Chernobyl nuclear plant design. With proper emergency planning in the design stage, it would have been possible to reduce the extent of the radioactive exposures to the project. The experts should properly analyze the environment and work with the surrounding populations to design the project such that it does not pose a threat to the human life (Newman & Newman, 2015). Currently, the design of the nuclear plants is done with emergency preparedness conscious such that people can rarely get hurt in the event of a disaster.

The other impact of the Chernobyl disaster is that it impacted the manner in which alerts and notifications are done whenever disaster strikes. It was evident that the operators at the 1986 nuclear disaster failed to alert the authorities or the government in time, leading to late evacuations. Currently, it is a requirement within the United States; such operators are to alert the government or the concerned authorities within 15 minutes of the disaster. The essence is that faster disaster response helps to save life and property. In relation to this, the American Nuclear Regulatory commission sends inspectors at various power plants at various intervals to assess their status.

The other policy impact of the Chernobyl disaster is that the food chain needs to be protected properly to avoid contamination and the risk to the public life. In this disaster, several people were reported to have consumed contaminated food and milk. Currently, the federal government enforced that all the edible products and water must be tested before consumption in the event of the disaster. This helps to protect the people from the dangers of eating contaminated food.

September 2001 U.S Terrorist Attack

This is another incident that shocked the world, but left a huge impact on disaster management policy. The U.S government became aware that terrorist attacks can yield one of the most dangerous disasters based on the large numbers of people who died and wounded in the terrorist war. First, it was realized that disaster management organizations need substantial funding for them to carry out their activities with much ease. After the September 2001 terrorist attack, the United States government increased their funding tremendously to the department of homeland security so that they can carry out their mandate with much ease (Crawford, Langston, & Bajracharya, 2013). In addition, it was realized that is necessary to reduce the extent of the disaster vulnerability. With reduced vulnerability, there will be few reported cases of such attacks. The American terrorist attack also made it necessary to integrate the disaster management with a medical disaster response. Traditionally, the medical response was not properly integrated as part of the disaster management. The number of casualties realized after the terrorist attack made it clear that a rapid and effective medical response is critical to the success of the disaster management policy. Therefore, the health and the medical systems were integrated into the disaster policy to minimize the instances of damage and casualties from related attacks and disasters.

Hurricane Katrina

This hurricane posed one of the greatest disasters in the American history as it claimed close to 2,000 lives and destroyed property worth billions. Actually, the management of Hurricane Katrina exposed several weaknesses in risk management that eventually led to several policy formulations to overcome such weaknesses. One of the valuable lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina is that partnerships with various stakeholders are critical to the success of the disaster management process (Adamski, Kline, & Tyrrell, 2006). Therefore, the disaster management must be people centered and must involve various interest groups. First, it was learned that the department of homeland security was more concerned was concerned with terrorism at the expense of other possible disasters such as hurricanes. The bureaucratic processes that led to the slow response to the Katrina disaster also led to the restructuring of FEMA. Importantly, the events of the Hurricane Katrina facilitated the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction that has since been adopted by several countries worldwide. This policy framework helps to protect the potentially vulnerable groups such as the elderly in the event of disaster.

Hurricane Andrew

This was another devastating incident that unearthed several challenged in relation to disaster management. FEMA was directly involved in the incident, but their operations unearthed several shortcomings of this agency in relation to disaster policy. Initially, FEMA was being managed by political appointees who may have less expert knowledge of disaster management. After the Hurricane incidence, the disaster management under the umbrella of FEMA was passed to professionals with expert knowledge in disaster management (Peacock, Morrow, & Gladwin, 2000). In addition, the Hurricane proved that early public warning is essential in disaster management. On the other hand, Hurricane Andrew led to the adoption and the implementation of several building codes that are still being used to date. These building codes help to facilitate the evacuation process whenever the disaster strikes (Vavrilesky, 2010).



Crawford, L., Langston, C., & Bajracharya, B. (2013). Participatory project management for improved disaster resilience. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, 4(3), 317-333

Newman, D., & Newman, N. (2015). Are disaster and emergency plans truly complete? Library Leadership & Management (Online), 29, 1-13

Havrilesky, H. (2010). Disaster Preparedness: A memoir. Riverhead Books.

Peacock, W., Morrow, B. & Gladwin, H. (2000). Hurricane Andrew: Ethnicity, gender, and the sociology of disasters. College Station: Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, Texas A&M University

Adamski, T., Kline, B., & Tyrrell, T. (2006). FEMA reorganization and the response to hurricane disaster relief. Perspectives in Public Affairs, Vol. 3