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Natural Disaster Preparedness in Texas: Nursing Response

Natural Disaster

Southeast Texas is the territory largely affected by such natural disasters as hurricanes. Due to its geographic peculiarities, the area can be hit by strong hurricanes every year, with increasing severity and frequency depending on the ocean temperature that fluctuates each decade (Ahrens & Henson, 2021). Hurricanes are typical of coastal areas and hit the North Atlantic region, moving west- and northward. The vast majority of hurricanes move parallel to the US coastline.

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Hurricanes bring strong winds, heavy rains that may last for days, floods, and even tornadoes. A five-category damage scale exists, with 1-category hurricanes bringing dangerous (74-95 mi/hr) winds that cause some damage and 5-category hurricanes associated with extreme winds (130-156 mi/hr) causing catastrophic damage (Ahrens & Henson, 2021). The most recent devastating hurricane (named Laura) hit Texas and Louisiana in August 2020 (Vasquez, 2020). The damage was considerable due to major effects on infrastructure, as well as people’s property.

In addition to property damage, hurricanes pose threats to public and individual health in different ways. The most immediate threat is associated with drowning, as dozens of people tend to drown in their homes or cars during dangerous hurricanes (Smith et al., 2018).

Different types of injuries are also the most typical health hazard linked to hurricanes. Due to the caused damage, drinking water supplies are mainly disrupted during the first hours and days after the natural disaster. Drinking water can be contaminated by sewage and chemicals, which leads to poisonings and infections. Since infrastructure is often damaged considerably, electricity supply disruptions lead to dehydration and exhaustion. Mental health issues are prevalent as thousands of people may be exposed to traumatic experiences, which leads to the development of anxiety and depression, as well as a post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Nursing Response

Due to the region’s exposure to hurricanes, Texas has clear plans and guidelines developed for different stakeholders. Each authority and large organization have emergency plans, and numerous guides for residents and professionals are available online. For instance, Beaumont residents can and should access a guide prepared by the City of Beaumont Emergency Management (“Are you prepared?” n.d.). This document includes valuable information regarding steps to be undertaken to prepare for a hurricane and actions during and after the natural disaster.

The data regarding shelters, evacuation, home preparedness, ensuring the safety of people with special needs, is also included. Notably, healthcare facilities have disaster management plans that are instrumental in preparing the facility, employees and the community for the disaster and acting effectively in the aftermaths.

As far as the particular response of Texas authorities, the region displays an effective response plan. The Regional Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (RHPC) was formed in 2001 as a network of stakeholders with assigned roles and responsibilities and clear guides to act under diverse circumstances (Upton et al., 2017). The RHPC showed its effectiveness during the Harvey hurricane that occurred in 2017. This entity managed to respond properly, which minimized the negative impact of the natural disaster.

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The Coalition involves a network of health-related organizations that have detailed plans. Thus, the RHPC informed the public on the major facts regarding the disaster, its aftermaths, undertaken steps, and exact guidelines (Upton et al., 2017). The response to the Harvey hurricane illustrates the effectiveness of the network with the close collaboration of different authorities and institutions within the community.

It is possible to conclude that the Houston area in Texas is prepared for hurricanes and can respond effectively to the devastating aftermaths of such natural disasters. The RHPC, the state government, and local authorities have detailed plans. Importantly, all residents have the necessary information regarding steps to be prepared and actions to be undertaken after the natural disaster. Having such data helps residents to feel safer and more responsible when hurricanes occur. When it comes to the healthcare system, Houston nursing professionals are also ready to respond adequately. Hospitals have the necessary protocols regarding the provision of care and supplies (for instance, medication).

At the same time, staff training, as well as the improvement and updating of the existing response plans is important. Nurse practitioners should be actively involved in the process of working on such protocols and advocate for implementing changes when necessary. It is noteworthy that the negative effects of natural disasters can be significantly exacerbated by COVID-associated challenges. The state is still substantially affected by the virus, so the upcoming season of hurricanes seems alarming for many. Luckily, the state already went through some extreme events in 2020 and responded effectively when the community was hit by two hurricanes (Vasquez, 2020).

At that, there is still a place for improvement, especially when it comes to vaccination. It is important to ensure the undisrupted provision of healthcare services and supplies to avoid new waves of virus spread this autumn.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the Houston area is frequently hit by hurricanes characterized by different degrees of severity. However, the region has detailed response plans that have proved to be effective. Moreover, the community successfully recovered from hurricanes aftermath the previous year, which was rather challenging due to COVID pandemics. Clearly, it is still important to continue improving the plans and informing the community as well as stakeholders involved in response measures implementation.

References

Ahrens, C. D., & Henson, R. (2021). Meteorology today: An introduction to weather, climate, and the environment (13th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Are you prepared? (n.d.). Beaumonttexas. Web.

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Smith, J., Banik, S., & Haque, U. (2018). Catastrophic hurricanes and public health dangers: Lesson learned. Journal of Public Health and Emergency, 2(2), 7-7. Web.

Upton, L., Kirsch, T. D., Harvey, M., & Hanfling, D. (2017). Health care coalitions as response organizations: Houston after hurricane Harvey. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 11(6), 637-639. Web.

Vasquez, L. (2020). PHOTOS: Some damage, but mostly relief as hurricane Laura passes through Texas. Houston Public Media. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Natural Disaster Preparedness in Texas: Nursing Response." July 31, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/natural-disaster-preparedness-in-texas-nursing-response/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Natural Disaster Preparedness in Texas: Nursing Response'. 31 July.

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