Children and Megadisasters: Lessons Learned in the New Millennium

Andrew L. Garrett; Roy F. Grant; Paula Madrid; Arturo Brito; David M. Abramson; Irwin E. Redlener

Children and Megadisasters: Lessons Learned in the New Millennium
Garrett, Andrew L.
Grant, Roy F.
Madrid, Paula
Brito, Arturo
Abramson, David M.
Redlener, Irwin E.
National Center for Disaster Preparedness
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Advances in Pediatrics
From the beginnings of human society, both nature and our own species have found ways to traumatically disrupt the status quo. Despite the many catastrophes in our history, the term disaster has been difficult to define. Most definitions include some reference to the event’s impact on people, the economy, or the environment. More theoretically, a disaster can be seen as a complex function of risk and vulnerability. As an example, the magnitude of a hurricane disaster is not as simple as the force of the hurricane itself upon a community but rather a sum of those forces (eg, storm-force winds) plus the special vulnerabilities faced by the community (eg, levee failure) plus the community’s capacity to reduce the actual or potential negative consequences of risk (eg, an inability to evacuate citizens). It is complicated interplay among the forces of destruction and the broad ability (or inability) of a community, for myriad reasons, to withstand them and mitigate their impact. Hurricane Katrina is America’s most recent encounter with a megadisaster. But what made it a megadisaster instead of just another category 3 hurricane of the type that seasonally exists in the Gulf of Mexico? Katrina was not the largest or strongest hurricane to strike the United States mainland in the recent past, but its effects were devastating and wide reaching beyond our wildest nightmares, far beyond those of Hurricane Andrew (1992), a category 5 hurricane that scoured much of Florida and the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina’s track directly targeted gaping vulnerabilities in infrastructure and society, and set in motion a series of events that culminated in the deaths of nearly 2000 people, resulted in hundreds of missing individuals, and caused a potential economic impact of up to $150 billion. The disruption of people’s lives was immeasurable, as was the impact on the long-term physical and mental health of the victims, which continues today. Katrina also led to a substantial decline in the confidence that the public has in its government to provide essential services during a disaster.
Public health
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Andrew L. Garrett, Roy F. Grant, Paula Madrid, Arturo Brito, David M. Abramson, Irwin E. Redlener, , Children and Megadisasters: Lessons Learned in the New Millennium, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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