EV5606: Environmental Science - Disasters - Communities and Planning - Assessment Answer

January 16, 2017
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Solution Code : 1AFEI

Question:Environmental Science

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Environmental Science Assignment

Assignment Task

Hurricane Katrina Contemporary Disaster Theme

Using the Hurricane Katrina “When the Levees Broke” series to establish the context, choose one of the articles provided below and research, identify and critically review the significance of the issue within contemporary disaster management practice

Level 5 students are expected to produce a document of 1,500 – 2,000 words in length with a minimum of 15 references. NB: IF THERE ARE FEWER THAN 15 REFERENCES THE ESSAY WILL BE RETURNED UNMARKED

  • Aldrich Public Taking the High Ground: FEMA trailer siting after Hurricane Katrina. Administration Review 2013 –prepublication draft.
  • Hawkins, R.L. and Maurer, K. 2011 ‘You fix my community, you have fixed my life’: the disrupation and rebuilding of ontological security in New Orleans. Disasters. 35(1): 143- 259.
  • Henry, J. 2011 Continuity, social change and Katrina. Disasters. 35 (1): 220-242.
  • LaJoie, A.S., Sprang, G. and McKinney, W.P. 2010 Long term effects of Hurricane Katrina on the psychological well-being of evacuees. Disasters. 34(4): 1031?1044.
  • Petterson, J.S., Stanley, L.D., Glazier, E. and Philipp, J. 2006 A Preliminary Assessment of Social and Economic Impacts Associated with Hurricane Katrina. American Anthropologist. 108 (4): 643-670.

• Tierney, K., Bevc, C., and Kuligowski, E. (2006). Metaphors matter: disaster myths, media frames, and their consequences in Hurricane Katrina. Annals of the American Association of Political and Social Science.

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Topic chosen: LaJoie, A.S., Sprang, G. and McKinney, W.P. 2010 Long term effects of Hurricane Katrina on the psychological well-being of evacuees. Disasters.Introduction

Hurricane Katrina is considered to be one of the most disastrous catastrophes in the history of the country, which accompanied with itself the floods of New Orleans. This landfall happened on August 29, 2005 along the central Gulf Coast. It disrupted the life of almost 2.5 million people along with the enormous loss to the property. Though years have passed after the incident, the deleterious impact it has left can still be observed in the mind of people who have experienced it closely. They still continue to bear a lot of psychological stress in their day to day life.

Many governmental and non-governmental agencies arranged for evacuation centers and provided shelter to the people affected by the hurricane. The survivors of Katrina had to face various health concerns like poor quality of sleep, weakening of immune system, and indulgence in negative habits like smoking and drinking alcohol. The risk of relapse of pre-existing health conditions also increased to much extent. Provisions are generally made to tackle the immediate needs after the disaster however impact left of the lives of evacuees in the form of severe psychological stress is also a matter of concern which goes unattended. The mental health ramifications of Hurricane Katrina in commonly include the state of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Mills, Edmondson, & Park, 2007).

Vulnerable group of people

It is believed that Hurricane Katrina may have more confound post-disaster recovery in comparison to the other natural disasters. This is attributed to the fact that the most heavily effected stated of US because of this hurricane- Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are counted among the poorest states of the nation (Sherman & Shapiro, 2005). And with poverty are connected the issues of race and ethnicity. Majority of the victims who lost their lives were the African-American (Elder et al., 2007). These poor people lacked the basic resources even before the disaster. For example the affected region of Louisiana had a high poverty rate of 30%. 59% of the survivors from Houston had an annual income less than $20,000 in 2004 and for 32% it was below $10,000. They lacked health insurance and were suffering chronic disease like diabetes or had physical disability. Also 93% of the affected areas were housed by minority community mainly comprising of African Americans (Brodie, Weltzien, Altman, Blendon, & Benson, 2006). These poor people generally lack means of transportation making it difficult for them to escape the storm and it’s after effects (Sherman & Shapiro, 2005). So the exposure of damage was more in their case firstly because of lack of preparedness for the disaster and secondly, due to insufficient resources to compensate the losses (Perilla, Norris, & Lavizzo, 2002). Also New Orleans is an area of housing for ethic minority (Elder et al., 2007; Weems et al., 2010). They even more prone to stress because of their social status, language barriers and discrimination faced by them.

Psychological well-being of evacuees

In a study conducted in 2010, LaJoie’s group has tried to examine the psychological health and well-being of a subset of Katrina survivors and get insights into the still prevailing mental health problems among them. The study takes into consideration many factors. They found that the long-term psychological damage still exists in the mind of those people; however the magnitude was dependent on the extent of exposure of the disaster. They have also highlighted some of the factors which actually hinder the well-being state that existed before the hurricane to return even after so many months have passed after the storm. They showed that the quality of life is still low among the interviewed candidates despite of availability of elementary amenities like decent employment, exposure of basic facilities and relocating to their original place (LaJoie, Sprang, & McKinney, 2010).

Though the physical harm done by a natural disaster is always high, the impact it leaves on the long-term mental and social well-being of the people it contacts is even higher. Multiple vulnerable factors contribute to the long term difficulties of catastrophe survivors. LaJoie et. al. made an attempt to compare the level of psychological distress among two categorizes of the evacuees- firstly, the one who come back to their naïve place, the Gulf Coast and secondly, the group of people who continued to stay where they got shelter during the storm. They showed that the returnees were suffering more because of anxiety and depression. The people who were a part of the first group and showed more post trauma stress disorder were almost double the number of people constituting the second group who decided to stay at the new location (LaJoie et al., 2010). But this result of their study is contrary to what others have shown, though in context of other disasters. A similar study of survivors by other group revealed that the evacuees who did not return to the community within an year were having more complaints, were more prone to depression and worry when compared to the individuals who either evacuated and returned or did not leave during the disaster (Milne, 1977a, 1977b). The reason behind this revelation is largely associated with loss of social ties and support systems (Brewin, 2005; Mills et al., 2007).

Need for mental health treatment provisions for affected people

The federal and often local disaster relief policies often neglect the mental health preparedness and interventions in comparison to the physical health. There seems an urgent need to integrate the mental health treatment by skilled professionals into the disaster relief exertions to help the people from all age groups including adults and children. This will help them cope up mental problems like stress, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral disorders (Margolin & Vickerman, 2011). If remain unchecked these can turn into more chronic mental health problems as well. They even start developing suicidal tendency(Kessler et al., 2008). Thus by preventing the dysfunction of emotional balance and helping the people to restore to the pre-disaster level is what is needed for resilience and complete recovery from the traumatic effects of such natural calamities.

Along with the general help by trained psychology professionals, they is a need for understanding the importance of differences in culture, spirituality, beliefs and thoughts of the victims to be served. This can help in increasing the effective of the long term development programs implemented to help the survivors of catastrophe (Seidenberg). To handle these objectives new recruitments can be made from the minority community. This can help the underprivileged people to get the ease of access of the facilities which otherwise go unused. Using these approaches the past discrimination, racism, and restricted access to health care be taken into account (Madrid & Grant, 2008).


I feel that the need and demand of services for the treatment of mental health among the survivors of hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast will continue for even many more years to come (McLaughlin et al., 2009). Many professionals from the field of psychology who have worked with the disaster victims and their families have reported the existence of great deal of trauma the individuals undergo. These mental effects can be generalized mainly to grief, anxiety and fear. The people who have a history of past trauma as well are even at a higher risk for a reoccurrence of anxiety. They generally face problems like disturbed sleeping patterns, less concentration, uncontrolled anger, and many other altered behavioral problems. Thus there is a critical need that mental health treatment should become an integral part of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

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