The Moore Oklahoma Tornado, 20th May, 2013
On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado hit More, Oklahoma City and Newcastle bringing to an end the three-day long storm that had started on 18th of the month. Despite prior forecasting of the event, when it occurred, the storm claimed 24 lives and left about 387 with injuries (Burgess et al., 2014). Central Oklahoma was new to the experience of violent tornadoes, having suffered on May 8, 2003, and May 3, 1999.
The event also led to the loss of billions of property. The catastrophe brought the roles and effectiveness of the local government, the non-profit organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under public scrutiny after having failed to manage the previous emergency situations effectively. The response, starting with the meteorological department and the handling of the situation compared to the earlier cases of managing emergency situations yielded several lessons.
Moore Oklahoma 2013 disaster was better managed compared to past disasters in the United States. Improvements were witnessed in different areas ranging from preparation and planning of the emergency response teams, to sheltering, and to the administration of care to the injured persons. The disaster provided various lessons for various stakeholders which, if reviewed, can result in better policies on disaster management in the United States.
To begin with, the effectiveness in the management of the Moore Oklahoma 2013 disaster proved that relationships are essential constituents of successful disaster management (Riley & Krautman, 2016). Unlike the previous disasters where poor and strained relations compromised the potential level of success as various organizations ran parallel programs, the Moore Oklahoma 2013 case saw the fire, police and other emergency management bodies coordinate for the better rescue of the affected persons. Furthermore, better relationships between and among non-profit organizations, churches, and tribal nations played a significant role in the successful management of the disaster. For instance, proactive supply decisions and innovative care strategies that were adopted following the past incidences made it possible to use two local area hospitals to treat over a hundred lives. Also, the good relationship between the non-profit organizations and the local government ensured service for the access and functional needs populations (Riley & Krautman, 2016).
The Moore Oklahoma 2013 disaster revealed that the U.S. has concentrated on recovery from disasters than it is prepared for it (building infrastructure and buildings that are more resilient to the effects of tornadoes) (Burgess et al., 2014). As a result, the country is trapped in a continuous reconstruction of structures that are vulnerable to the impact of tornadoes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Moore Oklahoma incident surpassed the preparedness budget. Should the U.S continue with this trend of rebuilding rather than preparing for these kinds of disasters, the citizens will remain susceptible to attack by tornadoes and other heavy storms. The government will also continue to suffer from the huge burden of rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by the storms.
The architectural designs of buildings and schools increase the risk of injury during storm occurrences (Burgess et al., 2014). Buildings with long walls of glasses may be attractive, but they serve perilous when a storm strikes. For example, a school with glass walls compromise the effectiveness of the traditional method of seeking shelter in the hallways during a storm as the glasses may fall on the students causing injuries. For this reason, there is need to review the building codes for more secure public buildings.
Improvement in forecasting of a tornado striking and issuance of warning several hours before its occurrence can lead to reduced losses, just like in hurricane cases (Riley & Krautman, 2016). With earlier warning, those without basements and those at high risks get an opportunity to evacuate and move to safer areas. Unfortunately, the current weather technology does not have this capability. In this regard, the United States government should enhance its weather satellites through new computer modeling to improve its capacity to provide in-time warning of tornado and hurricanes occurrences (Burgess et al., 2014).
While the Wireless Emergency Alert (W.E.A) technology is a boost to the warning notification during the incidences of extreme weather conditions, it is only useful before the disaster occurs. The system was useful as it supplemented other alert media by sending generic messages to those with smartphones and within the range of its cellular coverage advising for safety measures (Burgess et al., 2014). The W.E.A technology is dependent on cellular towers and goes off after hurricanes and tornadoes as these towers fall.
Some of the institutions like schools are well prepared to manage the situations like storm disaster. The teachers anticipated and prepared for the tornadoes, and this helped them save lives by assembling the pupils in safe areas such as safe rooms, away from the dangerous grounds during the storm (Brooks, 2013). Government agencies in conjunction with the meteorological department also played a great role by giving warning to the residence on tornado a little bit earlier which also managed to prevent many losses of lives during the storm.
Storm shelters project initiated by the federal government following the historical incidences of heavy storms are useful in reducing the loss of lives during heavy storms (Riley & Krautman, 2016). Considering the scale of the storm, the EF-5, and the reduced number deaths and injuries as compared to the past occurrences, the shelter program is affirmed as a fruitful one. Despite this observation, Moore Oklahoma 2013 storm revealed that there are not enough secure shelters in public buildings and schools. The deaths of seven elementary school children at the Plaza Tower Elementary School in Moore emphasized the need for all schools to have safe shelters (Brooks, 2013).
The May 20th, 2013 Moore Oklahoma tornado caused devastating effects that include the loss of lives and destruction of properties worth billions of dollars. The entire management of this disaster brought together government agencies such as FEMA and the meteorological department, as well as non-profit organizations and the local government, among other institutions. The management of the disaster was an improvement of the past responses to disaster in the U.S. albeit with some challenges. The lessons learned in the process can be used to improve the U.S. disaster management.
Burgess, D., Ortega, K., Stumpf, G., Garfield, G., Karstens, C., Meyer, T., … & Marshall, T. (2014). 20 May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, tornado: Damage survey and analysis. Weather and Forecasting, 29(5), 1229-1237.
Brooks, H. E., 2013: Tornado safety in schools: Risk and preparedness. Southern Climate Monitor, 3(8), 2-4. [Available online at http://www.southernclimate.org/documents/SCM_August_2013.pdf.]
Riley, R., and A. Krautmann, 2016: Managing Disaster: 20 May 2013 Central Oklahoma Tornado. Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, 27 pp. [Available online at http://www.southernclimate.org/documents/May20Report.pdf.]