Tornadoes create a significant risk to the life and safety of individuals in a wide variety of communities. Not only do tornadoes cause a loss of life, they are well known for the ability to level entire communities and create massive property damage. One such tornado is referred to as the Joplin Tornado. This tornado will discuss the background of the tornado, as well as discuss the four phases of emergency management in relation to the tornado. These phases are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. It should be noted that these four phases must occur as a cyclical occurrence, rather than a linear one.
The Joplin Tornado struck the community of Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011. The tornado was an EF5 on the Fujita Scale, by which tornado intensity is measured. This indicates that it was the most forceful tornado. The winds in miles per hour for an EF5 tornado are in excess of 200. It is accepted that no structure can withstand the forces of a tornado at this level of intensity. It was produced from a supercell thunderstorm. In addition, the tornado was a multi-vortex tornado, which indicates that the tornado had multiple vortexes within it. Essentially, there were multiple tornadoes that occurred within the tornado. The Joplin tornado resulted in one hundred fifty-eight fatalities, and also caused injuries to over one thousand individuals. This is one of the deadliest tornados in the history of the United States. In ranking, it was the seventh deadliest tornado on record. The tornado is also noted for its tremendous loss of property. It caused approximately $2.8 billion dollars in property damages (in 2011 dollars) (NOAA, 2011.).
The first phase of emergency management is mitigation; mitigation refers to steps taken to prevent the disaster or to minimize the harm associated with it (FEMA, n.d.). It should be noted that Missouri is known for tornadoes. However, there is nothing that can be done to prevent them, as they are a natural weather event. Many communities in Missouri do have “safe rooms” that provide safety during these events. However, as already stated, there is no structure that can truly withstand the forces of an EF5 tornado. However, these are rare events and safe rooms should be constructed for safety during less forceful storms.
Preparedness is the next phase. It was noted that this event offered important lessons with regard to preparedness. The city’s communication was found to be lacking, as well as the GPS tracking of the tornado. The overall level of community preparedness was not adequate. This includes hospital response plans, as well as emergency supplies in a community. These lessons should be incorporated for other communities at similar risk.
Response is the third phase. Overall, the response was considered adequate. The community offered well-trained emergency response, and national and state resources responded quickly to the community. A Presidential disaster declaration was quickly signed, allowing all agencies of the federal government to respond in a prompt manner. While the death toll was tragic, the quick response may have helped to save many lives. Within one day, search and rescue teams had arrived at the location (NOAA, 2011).
The recovery stage has also gone quite well. While some individuals have left the community, the majority have stayed; five hundred businesses had reopened by 2013. Furthermore, 145 new businesses have opened. Only 30 businesses were not opened by November, 2013. This level of recovery indicates that the community has done well. However, it has been noted that there is still much recovery to occur. This is to be expected after such a significant disaster (Aubrey, 2013).
- Aubrey, J. (2013, November 14). New numbers show recovery progress after Joplin tornado. Retrieved from: http://www.koamtv.com