What are the Consequences of Disaster on a Society?
The consequences of a disaster on a society could be crippling. Should a tornado rip through a highly populated area with a large corporation headquartered there, it would literally devastate that area as well as the surrounding communities, if not a whole state.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it devastated Louisiana and was later declared a State of Emergency. Even though I live in Michigan, that event emotionally affected me and those closest to me. Not because one of my cousins had just recently relocated to Mississippi but because it was a human catastrophe, and it shook me to the core for those families directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Having the correct precautions in place can make a big difference. Property owners or those who employ entire communities should most definitely have a team of professionals, such as an attorney or a public adjuster, handling their insurance details. They will be the people who make sure you are covered in such an event like a tornado, flood, or hurricane.
In a disaster, you could be facing the danger of death or physical injury. One could lose their home, possessions, and potentially an entire community. Such stressors place you at risk for emotional and physical health problems. Stress reactions after a disaster look very much like the common reactions seen after any type of trauma.
According to a publication by Cambridge University Press, the following are four of the top short-term effects on society after a disaster:
- Victims, Selective Mortality, and Population Recovery
- Land Loss and Capital Destruction
- Economic Crisis
- Scapegoating, Blame, and Social Unrest
Aftermath of a disaster
Additionally, the aftermath of a disaster can lead to a breakdown in social order. Losing essential utilities such as electricity, water, and communication systems can create chaos and hinder relief efforts. Communities may struggle to access necessities like food, shelter, and medical care, further exacerbating the impact on society. Take a trip to the local grocery store after a power outage and notice how low or out of stock they are with bread, eggs, and milk. Some people tend to panic when disaster strikes and purchase enough essential goods needed for an army! Always stay calm, as cooler heads will prevail.
Disasters also have long-term consequences on society. The process of rebuilding infrastructure and restoring normalcy can be a daunting and expensive task. It may take years or even decades for a community to recover and regain its previous level of functioning fully.
Furthermore, the psychological impact of a disaster on individuals and communities cannot be underestimated. Post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues can arise, leading to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. The trauma experienced by survivors can have lasting effects on their well-being and quality of life.
In a research article titled “Recovery from PTSD following Hurricane Katrina’ by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “A probability sample of pre-hurricane residents of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered a telephone survey 7-19 months following the hurricane and again 24-27 months post-hurricane. The baseline survey assessed PTSD using a validated screening scale and assessed a number of hypothesized predictors of PTSD recovery that included socio-demographics, pre-hurricane history of psychopathology, hurricane-related stressors, social support, and social competence. Exposure to post-hurricane stressors and course of estimated PTSD were assessed in a follow-up interview,”.
That same PTSD article went on to note that Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disasters in U.S. history, with more than 1000 people killed, 500,000 displaced, and more than $100 billion in damage. People in hurricane-affected areas were exposed to many stressors, including the death of loved ones, risk of death, property loss, difficulty obtaining food and clothing, and exposure to violence after the storm.
Disasters can also widen pre-existing social inequalities. Vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, the elderly, and marginalized groups, often suffer the most during and after a disaster. They may lack the resources and support networks necessary for recovery, further deepening their disadvantage.
Causes of natural disasters
According to The United States Department of National Security, “Natural disasters include all types of severe weather, which potentially pose a significant threat to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security.
Natural disasters occur seasonally and without warning, subjecting the nation to frequent periods of insecurity, disruption, and economic loss. These resources serve to prepare IHEs for a variety of natural disasters, including winter storms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or any combination thereof,”.
FEMA states, “Natural hazards are defined as environmental phenomena that have the potential to impact societies and the human environment. These should not be confused with other types of hazards, such as manmade hazards. For example, a flood resulting from changes in river flows is a natural hazard, whereas flooding due to a dam failure is considered a manmade hazard, and therefore excluded from the National Risk Index, “.
The eighteen natural hazards included in the National Risk Index are:
- Coastal Flooding
- Cold Wave
- Heat Wave
- Ice Storm
- Riverine Flooding
- Strong Wind
- Volcanic Activity
- Winter Weather
Other causes of natural disasters include volcanic eruptions, which can release ash and toxic gases into the atmosphere. Tsunamis are often triggered by underwater earthquakes or volcanic activity. Avalanche disasters can occur when a mass of snow and ice rapidly falls down a mountain slope. Hailstorms and ice storms can cause significant damage to crops, homes, and infrastructure. Lightning strikes can start wildfires, spreading rapidly and devastating large areas.
For example, in the summer of 2023, the wildfires in Canada affected Michigan for the majority of our summer. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (formally DEQ, now EGLE) reported, “The wildfire smoke this summer impacted the entire state, affecting fine particulate and ozone concentrations. Many areas of the state that don’t typically see higher pollution levels did this summer due to the wildfires. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula experienced several days with high fine particulate concentrations,”.
Consequently, my utility costs were extremely high as residents were instructed to stay indoors and not to open windows. So, the air conditioning was on for two months straight!
What are the consequences of disaster on a society?
Ultimately, the consequences of a disaster on a society are far-reaching and multi-faceted. They encompass physical, economic, psychological, and social dimensions, all contributing to a significant and long-lasting impact. Governments, organizations, and individuals must prioritize disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts to mitigate these consequences and build resilient communities.