Local State and Federal Response to Disasters

Natural Disasters and Their Impact

Natural disasters are triggered by natural and geological forces, but their severity or chance may be enhanced by human operations. Many weather-related events have risen both in severity and frequency because of automation and improvements in manufacturing operations. Earthquakes, tornadoes, sinkholes, flooding, wildfires, droughts, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are examples of natural disasters. Natural disasters contribute to the loss of lives, damage to infrastructure, and have a detrimental effect on the economy. Many afflicted can experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the personal level or retreat into depression. Natural disasters often lead to significant migration of people whereas some communities find it difficult or almost impossible to recover from a disaster. The effects of the natural disasters are also felt both at the community and state level and sometimes affect the whole country.

More loss is experienced in densely populated areas.

Tropical weather systems can intensify quickly from just being storms to cyclones or hurricanes (Whitmer, para1). The severity of the natural disasters is dependent on the resilience of the affected population, ability to recover and the availability of the infrastructure. The impact of the disaster may depend on preparedness, for example, there are records of Native Americans migrating from Coastal Florida to avoid seasonal hurricanes (Sharrief, para2). The purpose of this paper is to find out the role of local state and federal response to disasters. Scientists and geologist are working hard in order to be able to predict major disasters and reduce their impact. With the aid of technology, it has become easier to make the predictions though there are still natural disasters that hit unexpectedly such as the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Examples of Natural Disasters


Earthquakes usually manifest themselves through shaking and vibration and sometimes through the displacement of the ground. Earthquakes are as a result of the slippage within geological faults or by volcanic activities, nuclear tests, and landslides. Earthquakes by themselves do not necessarily destroy life or wildlife. However, earthquakes range from size from those that are weak and cannot be felt by the violent ones that can trigger fires, tsunami or collapse of buildings hence causing loss of life. The evolving of earthquake engineering has led to designing of structures with the capability to minimize the risk of damage. Also, the already existing structures can be modified to improve their resistance.


Sinkholes occur all over the world and are as a result of natural erosion or human activities. Natural causes of sinkholes include erosion or underground water while man-made causes include activities such as mining, drilling, and construction. Sinkholes can also form due to shifting in water drainage patterns to new water diversion systems. The causes of sinkholes exist a long time before the sinkhole appears. Sinkholes are capable of causing huge damage if they suddenly appear in areas densely populated. Natural sinkholes cannot be prevented and as such pose a threat to the foundation of buildings.

Volcanic Eruptions

In contrast to other natural disasters, volcanic eruptions have some positive effects. Volcanic eruptions cause damage and destroy lives and property when it explodes or when it results in falling rocks. The eruptions can cause earthquakes, mud slides and floods. Also, threatening heat can be experienced after if lava is produced during a volcano eruption. Production of lava could lead to the destruction of plants, animals, and buildings due to the extreme heat. Moreover, lava may travel far burying, burning or damaging whatever will be in its path including people and houses. On the other hand, volcanoes supply the soil around them with vitamins. Volcanic ash is rich in minerals that facilitate growth in plants. Another positive effect is that the volcanoes lead to the creation of natural glass, nickel, and copper.


The effects of floods include social, environmental and economic and include the loss of life and livestock and damage to property and crops. The economy is disrupted and people's lives are disrupted as they migrate to safer areas. The extent of the damage caused varies depending on the location, depth, and speed of the flood and the vulnerability of the environments. Moreover, damage to infrastructure often leads to long-term effects such as poor transport and communication network, disruptions in supplying clean safe water and difficulties in accessing education and healthcare. The psychological effect is traumatizing especially after the loss of loved ones, displacement or loss of property. On the other hand, floods play a key role in maintaining the ecosystem biodiversity. Flooding can trigger breeding and migration for many species.


A large tsunami can rise over 100feet hence causing extreme destruction due to its energy and water. The effects of the tsunami largely depend on issues such as the seismic events that caused the tsunami, its size and the distance from its point of origin. Small tsunamis happen more often and their effects are usually minor since they occur from land. Major destruction of the tsunami is caused by the smashing force of water traveling at high speed as well as the draining off of water carrying all with it. These waves have the potential of destroying telephone lines, buildings, cars, trees, and buildings. The worst effect of a tsunami is the loss of life since escaping is almost impossible. Furthermore, small islands can be hit beyond recognition by a tsunami. Tsunami disrupts the landscape by uprooting trees and plants and also destroying the animal habitats.


Tornadoes are dangerous rotating columns and they come in varying shapes and sizes. About a thousand tornadoes are experienced in the United States every year. A great percentage of these tornadoes are weak and therefore do not cause significant effects. Tornadoes are confined to small areas and cause deaths from flying and falling debris. When a tornado is striking, it is advisable for people to move away from the windows and stay as low as possible to the ground. For areas greatly affected, plants and trees can be uprooted.


Drought is as a result of a severe deficiency in the supply of water and affects the ecosystem as well as agriculture in the affected area. The extent of the effect largely depends on the strength of the drought and the length of time the area faces the drought. Drought can be very harsh in a community since it affects the water supply. Therefore, if the drought persists for a long period of time, water restrictions are put in place by either the local or state government. Water rationing is effected so that the reservoirs and the streams do not run too low. Drought can lead to communities suffering from health problems due to lack of healthy foods and clean water. In severe cases, drought can lead to starvation of people and even death.


Hurricanes are large, swirling storms and their winds can cause damage to buildings and trees. Hurricanes have a life-span of about one to thirty days because they are weakened by prolonged contact with colder ocean waters. The high winds are usually the major cause of loss of life and damage to properties during the disaster. The other cause for inflicting damage is the flooding resulting from a coastal storm surge of the ocean and heavy rains which accompany the storm. Hurricanes commence as tropical disturbances in warm ocean waters and when a storm's sustained wind speed reaches 74 miles an hour, it becomes a hurricane. NASA uses satellites to take pictures of the hurricanes from space and show them on TV and also the internet. Some of the satellite instruments are used to measure temperatures for the cloud and ocean. Other instruments measure how rain is falling and height of clouds whereas others are used to measure speed and direction of winds. Learning about hurricanes enables scientists to understand how hurricanes form and get stronger.

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey is set on record to have inflicted damage of about $200 billion, mainly from flooding Houston metropolitan area. During a period of four days, many areas had received more than 40 inches of rain over Texas and adjacent waters resulting in catastrophic floods. More so, the floods destroyed more than hundreds of thousands of homes whereas more than 30,000 people were displaced (Amadeo, para2). The impact of Harvey was felt across the country as gas prices increased. This is because 25percent of gas and oil production had to shut down in the region affected. In contrast to other Hurricanes which hit densely populated East Coast, Harvey affected a major metropolitan area and its extensive damage was unusual.

To assist with the lifesaving mission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed 28 urban search and rescue teams to Texas. In this mission, more than 6,000 people were rescued. FEMA also provided water, meals, blankets and hygiene kits to the survivors. In addition, FEMA placed teams of specialists to disaster recovery centers so they could assist survivors with registration and questions on disaster assistance. FEMA also worked with the social media so as to share disaster information. More also, the department of Health and Human Services deployed personnel with supplies and medical equipment and provided medical care to more than 5,000 patients.

Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017and caused severe damages just as residents were starting to recover from Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria originated from a tropical wave to become a tropical storm with the environment conditions facilitating it to undergo explosive intensification as it approached island arc. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster to happen in Dominica causing a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. There were floodwaters streaming the streets, no power supply and destructive winds swept people’s houses away. Catastrophic damage was caused by Maria during its peak and most of the island’s population suffered from lack of resources and flooding. Moreover, infrastructure in Roseau was left in ruins and every power pole and line completely damaged.

After the hit by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover. The federal governments through its agency the Federal Emergency Management Agency have tried to contain the situation in Puerto Rico by providing free healthcare, food, and water. Also, taxes were exempted from business owners residing in the affected locations for up to January 2018. Moreover, Florida has organized reception centers mainly in Orlando and Miami to help resettle evacuees. Also, students studying at the University of Puerto Rico received opportunities for one free semester to further their studies in institutions at the mainland. However, massive migration could lead to deterioration of the economy in Puerto Rico. Among those migrating from Puerto Rico include the educated middle class, doctors, teachers, and engineers seeking better opportunities.

Role of Local Government

The citizens living in the affected areas, voluntary organizations and their local government are the first to cope with the damage resulting from a disaster. The local government, therefore, is the first provider of emergency response services. Moreover, the local government exercises full control of all assets used during the response and the recovery process. There is the need for local government to plan and prepare as well as work with the support of state and federal governments. To address the damage caused both the government, private sector and the philanthropic resources need to be pulled together. It is of importance to strategize how best to rebuild the communities in such a way that the local will and vision is reflected. The local government coordinates disaster response with both the private and public agencies and organizations. In addition, the local government also activates response agreements with state and federal agencies.

Role of State Government

The role of the state government is monitoring the situation in case of a natural disaster. The state government is also responsible for monitoring the situation to determine whether the situation is beyond the capability of the state. If the state cannot handle the situation then they request for Federal assistance through the proclamation of the state emergency by the governor. This leads to the activation of the State Disaster Preparedness Plan hence providing for the use of State assistance or resources. Following a natural disaster, the state government can either request for emergency or declare a major disaster.

Role of Federal Government

As a level of government, the federal government is the only one capable of ensuring the provision of resources and capacity in a timely and predictable manner. The most catastrophic impact extends to a number of municipalities hence the capability of the federal government being able to address the disasters. The federal government provides resources if a disaster strike and both the local and state government cannot provide the required resources. The activation and implementation of federal response plan are coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To access the federal support and the programs the local and state governments have to work with FEMA.

Response to Natural Disasters

The damage caused by Hurricane Katrina forced leaders to actually confront what was structurally broken concerning the government's response to large-scale disasters. The Stafford Act has provided basis for dealing with emergency disaster relief at the national level but ill-equipped to address major catastrophes (Liu, para4). In addition, the natural disasters have triggered the need for both short and longer-term resources to rebuild homes, tunnels, hospitals as well as other facets of community life. This is quite complex and highly costly for the governments. Disasters affect both urban centers and the small towns. The state acts as a coordinator and broker between the various jurisdictions, especially in states with many towns.

The major role of the government is to provide safety and security for its citizens. Natural disasters are unavoidable and usually followed by the sense of economic hopelessness. The activities that follow include rebuilding of homes, roads, schools and other institutions. It is however, painful for the affected because they cannot replace their memories.

Pan American Development foundation (PADF) is the part of the Inter-American committee on natural disaster reduction. PADF mobilizes corporate and private donations in support of disaster mitigation and to foresee implementation of disaster rehabilitation programs. PADF strives to reduce the impact of disasters through preparing for disasters, provision of emergency relief in presence of local government and in assisting in disaster recovery. In addition, PADF creates awareness to strengthen community response to natural disasters as well as aid victims in humanitarian crisis.

Nonetheless, in response to natural disasters, FEMA supports the state and local partners through the use of Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). DRF provides a funding base which guides FEMA on how to coordinate and manage funds during the response to disasters and emergencies. Therefore, through DRF, FEMA can fund disaster support activities that are authorized by the federal government. More also, FEMA can offer assistance in evacuation and shelter. The DRF funds the repair and reconstruction of infrastructure that might be damaged after a disaster. Financial assistance is also offered to eligible survivors.

Moreover, the implementation of Smart Emergency Response System (SERS) in 2014 has promoted lifesaving and fostered businesses. SERS is an initiative by the government of United States and has led to the creation of jobs for the unemployed. By using SERS both the survivors and emergency personnel are able to access information to locate and offer assistance to each other during the disaster. SERS foster economic growth through the increase of human productivity and provision for new opportunities for pollution cleanup as well as transportation and delivery at reduced cost.


Natural disasters lead to the devastation of communities hence the need to prepare. However, when a natural disaster strike, the reaction of people is that of humanity and resilience. People come to the aid of those affected and set up donation centers. Celebrities help raise money through concerts, marathons and visit the affected communities. Furthermore, he needs for disaster measures continue to grow as the number and the severity of natural disasters continue to grow. Natural disasters strike and more often leave the communities disrupted and vulnerable. People have little access to essentials of life such as food, clean water and also basic services. The affected are faced with the uncertainty of having their lives destroyed while others deal with the tragic loss of human life and property.

Both the government and the humanitarian organizations are strongly involved in disaster emergency response. The aim of the emergency response is to ensure immediate assistance to safeguard life, relieve suffering, safeguard the environment, provide information and improve the life of those affected. The emergency assistance includes temporary shelter, food, provision of safe water and transportation. The victims are provided with basic needs until more permanent and sustainable solutions can be realized. However, because of the lessons learned and the painful experiences of those affected, the ability to respond has tremendously improved. Getting counseling services for the victims remain the major focus so as to help victims heal emotionally and physically. Much improvement has been realized in emergency response due to enhanced training and through disaster drills.

Works Cited

Amadeo, K. Hurricane Harvey facts, damage, and costs. 2017. Retrieved on 28th November https:\/\/www.thebalance.com\/hurricane-harvey-facts-damage-costs-4150087

Liu, Amy. Feds, states, cities-The all of the above disaster response. 2012. Web 27th November 2017 https:\/\/www.brookings.edu\/blog\/up-front\/2012\/11\/02\/feds-states-cities-the-all-of-the-above-disaster-response\/

Sharrief, M. The impact of natural disasters. 2017. Web 27th November 2017 https:\/\/sciencing.com\/impact-natural-disasters-5502440.html

Whitmer, P. Stages of a tropical cyclone. 2017. Web 27th November 2017 https:\/\/sciencing.com\/stages-tropical-cyclone-8709867.html

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