Free Essay On Exploring Community, Environmental And Occupational Health Concerns Associated With Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane sandy was the most destructive and violent hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as beginning the greatest Atlantic storm leaving a disastrous impact in its wake (Coch, 2015). Hurricane sandy is the second costliest hurricane in the history of the United States of America after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Camille and the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane (Mallard, Lackmann, Aiyyer, & Hill, 2013). Estimates as of March 2014 assess the damage to be over 68 billion US Dollars and at least 233 people were killed along the way of the storm in eight countries (Coch, 2015). Hurricane Sandy left many millions of people across its path still struggling to return to normalcy in its wake (Coch, 2015).
Hurricane Sandy began as a tropical wave in the Caribbean, quickly developing into tropical storm in just six hours and it got upgraded to a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reached 74 mph. it tore through the Caribbean, landfall at Jamaica to Cuba, sweeping across the Bahamas, before turning north towards the U.S. coast (Mallard, Lackmann, Aiyyer, & Hill, 2013).
Therefore, the main aim and purpose of this paper is to provide various environmental effects of hurricane, public health concerns that mostly results due to hurricane factors as well as occupational health care concerns for hospital staff during hurricane. The paper will also propose possible mitigation strategies that can be used in order to reduce the risks associated with hurricane effects in the society.
Environmental Effects of a Hurricane
Hurricanes tore through the coastlines leaving millions without power and by landing in most densely populated areas in the US, Hurricanes powerful torrential downpour and strong winds hits areas at high-risk for contaminant release into the environment (Coch, 2015). These high level risks for contaminant are nuclear power plants, oil refineries and superfund sites all being at the mercy for devastating disaster to the environment by the powerful strong winds and torrential downpour of hurricanes (Coch, 2015).
Hurricanes can cause nuclear meltdown since nuclear power plants are vulnerable to severe accident with nuclear fallout, forcing nuclear power plants to shut down to avoid posing devastating environmental challenges (Coch, 2015). Nuclear meltdown can lead to water contamination posing greatest environmental impact due to its deadly radiation exposure into the environment killing all life forms (Coch, 2015).
Heavy contaminated industrial sites (superfund sites) can release toxins due to flooding leading to significant health risks (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). The spilling of toxins from the industries can contaminate the water release extreme poisonous toxins that can kill life forms in the water and this can also leave potential toxic residue exposed by the flooding onto the streets (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). There can be cases of water borne diseases such as typhoid, Hepatitis A, Dysentery, Amoebas and cholera outbreaks in the aftermath of hurricanes devastation (Coch, 2015).
The threat of contaminants from industrial sites can cause oil spillage resulting to lasting scar on the sensitive salt marshes in the waterway, which are important wildlife habitats and nursery areas for fish (Coch, 2015). The threat of large number of fish kill can also be reported in the event of oil spillage due to low oxygen levels in the water resulting from the biodegradation of the oil (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). Oil also result in the killing of sea birds since it sticks to bird’s feathers exposing the birds sensitive skin to extreme temperatures because it causes the feathers to mat and separate, impairing waterproofing (Coch, 2015).
Hurricanes can also hit sewer system infrastructures across cities and towns affected greatly, causes an immediate public and environmental health challenges through water contamination (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). Spillage from superfund sites or sewage plants affect water quality across impacted regions due to flushing of large quantities of pesticides, contaminants and bacteria into rivers and estuaries form across entire landscapes (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). Sewage overflows caused by heavy raining may cause the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers (Coch, 2015). Secondary exposure to sewage contaminated floodwaters and wastewater, along with impaired access to potable water and flushable toilets, may lead to gastrointestinal infections, acute respiratory infections, skin infection and insect bites (Coch, 2015).
In addition, Hurricanes generate powerful strong winds that can wholesomely defoliate forest canopies and cause dramatic structural changes in wooded ecosystems (Coch, 2015). Animals affected by hurricanes can be killed, impacting directly or indirectly through changes in habitat and food availability caused by high winds, storm surge and intense rainfall. Also this can affect the number of endangered animals such as the Puerto Rican parrot, whose numbers was reduced to half from its original size after the passing of Hurricane Hugo in 1988 (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). Storm surge and violent waves can move large amounts of sand and ultimately reshaping the coastal landscape (Shrira, Palgi, Hamama-Raz, Goodwin, & Ben-Ezra, 2014). This has led to shoreline position changes of about 100 meters in some regions, witnessed by the passing of Hurricanes such as Katrina, Gustav and Rita (Coch, 2015).
The effects caused by Hurricane Andrew stripped sand from nearly 70 percent of the barrier islands leaving exposed aging coastal marsh (Coch, 2015). Another more than large number of oyster reefs behind the barrier islands were smothered by a thick blanket of sediment.it destroyed the coastal population, estuaries and wetlands that provided storm protection from hurricanes (Coch, 2015). The net effect of subsidence is that sea level is raising at a rate of about 1 centimeter per year, ten times the world rate (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). The barrier islands protect productive estuarine and wetland environments that support a heavily productive and profit minting fishing industry yearly to the amount of 10 billion US Dollars (Coch, 2015). Erosion of the barrier islands is so severe that their ability to function as effective buffers for the prevention of wetlands has been greatly reduced. Such as the Louisiana’s wetlands which is now disappearing very fast at the rates of 40 square kilometers per year (Coch, 2015). In a few years to come the barrier islands may be gone and the wetlands will be lost even faster as time changes as the hurricanes keeps coming and hitting the coastlines (Coch, 2015).
Hurricanes cause the availability of vector borne diseases resulting from mosquito bites cause West Nile virus. This is due to standing water and debris, which encourages mosquito breeding grounds and the multiplication of flies (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014). The people who have not received vaccination or any other earlier medical prevention ways are at great risk of falling ill (Teasdale, Stephens, Sloboda, Stephens, & Grey, 2013).
Air quality is affected after hurricane aftermath, especially indoor air quality which is a concern for the public health providers on proper remediation to homes and businesses (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014). There is mold and dust that is witnessed and can cause health complication for the residence in indoors areas. Exposure to mold in flood damaged buildings could worsen allergic and asthmatic symptoms among those with pre-existing allergic sensitization and respiratory infections (Coch, 2015).
The quality of food, the handling and disposal of spoiled or contaminated products and the safety of the commercial seafood harvest from sea is major concern, because the seafood being harvested is greatly contaminated from toxin spilled into the water (Coch, 2015).
Public Health Concerns during Evacuation of a Hospital
The daunting task that requires the evacuating the most densely populated areas to unaffected regions both within the state and in other states around the country requires resources and man-power in doing so. The state of Louisiana evacuated approximately 1.5 million people before Hurricane Katrina made landfall (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). However, there were a number of people who decided to stay behind; others did not have the opportunity to evacuate because of strained resources (Coch, 2015).
The number one priority was to cater for those with medical and special needs during the evacuation process that began before and after the hurricane were approximately 30,000 to 40,000 people (Coch, 2015). The state had to set up special needs shelters and the largest emergency room of 700 beds was established at an assembly center to take care of people from affected areas (Coch, 2015).
In the early days of the operation following the flooding of Hurricane Katrina, the state evacuated approximately 12,000 caregivers and their patients from 25 hospitals (Coch, 2015). This had to be a slow process considering the fragile nature of many patients (Coch, 2015). In some cases patients were evacuated, one or two at a time, by a boat to a helipad where they were transferred to a helicopter that brought them to the airport, from which they were flown to other states (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014).
There can be health or public health concerns that may result from the evacuation of a hospital during a hurricane (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014). There can be significant logistical and response problem during evacuation relating to transportation, staffing, maintaining complex medication regimens, insufficient emergency provisions and failure to follow emergency plans (Coch, 2015). Another health concern that can be witnessed during the evacuation process of a hospital is that in receiving facilities located outside the storm surge zone will require additional medical supplies and patient care capacity (Coch, 2015). There can be delayed evacuation of health care facilities or inadequate health care equipment and staff posing a health challenge to the health care providers (McClure, Mendoza, Duncan, Rotrosen, & Hansen, 2014). There can also be damage to communication and transportation infrastructure, making it more difficult to transport and track patients who may already be compromised by failure of medical equipment or exposure to heat or cold (Coch, 2015).
Natural disasters are chaotic and very tense. Public health and emergency management and responses agencies should develop protocols, ensuring the capacity to responses in the face of another hurricane effective and guide crucial decision in a disaster preparation (Coch, 2015). Public officials should decide whether to shelter or risk transfer of fragile patients to safer zones in good time to avoid unnecessary last minute rush that result to anxiety (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014). The secretary of Health and Human Services in his or her part should come out swiftly in considering issuing an early public health emergency declaration to reduce logistics, legal and regulatory constraints (Coch, 2015).
The government should invest adequately in health care infrastructure to withstand catastrophic events such as flooding caused by hurricanes (Torn, Whitaker, Pegion, Hamill, & Hakim, 2015). This should be done in the face another disaster to avoid the same consequences that have been seen in the wake of every disaster, it will help cut the cost. Investment should be coordinated across all institution involved, it will lead to harmonization of planning and response which is paramount in ensuring patients safety.
Facilities will require additional resources whether financial, material and intellectual, to meet the ever changing challenges of disaster response (Coch, 2015). There should proper training of medical staff in readiness for disaster and that the staff should be fully equipped to meet the challenges that are experienced during evacuation of patients and there should be a policy in places that there is possibility existing that an emergency may occur at any time (Coch, 2015). Each hospital should develop and update its own hurricane response plan, team assignment and succession and provide copies to its respective emergency management coordinator, reviewed and updated annually (Coch, 2015).
Occupational Health Concerns for Hospital Staff
Occupational health refers to the identification and control of the risks arising from physical, chemical and any other workplace hazards in order to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). These hazards may include chemical agents and solvents, physical hazards such as electricity and physical agents such as loud noise (Coch, 2015). Therefore, during a hurricane hospital staff encountered certain occupational health concerns thatmade it more difficult for hospital staff to maintain standards of care.Individuals with pre-existing health conditions worsened as they were cut off from access to essential medication ad treatment such as oxygen or kidney dialysis (Diaz-Hernandez, Mendez, & Mínguez, 2014). In some flooded areas, access to fresh water is so scarce that the patients and hospital staff suffered from dehydration (Xie, Ozbay, & Yang, 2015). Hospital staff during the initial evacuation to a temporary shelter was overwhelmed by the straining and rigorous work that they suffered from fatigue and stress (Coch, 2015).
They also suffer from back pain due the strenuous exercise as well as many suffer from the anxiety of missing there loved while they cared for the patient (Coch, 2015). Hospital staff during a hurricane work tirelessly for many hours without rest due to the overwhelming numbers of non-fatal patients who throng the hospital for medical attention (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). There are also cases of power failure resulting to the use of emergency power generators during a hurricane and if the floodwaters overwhelm hospitals there are blackouts which experienced in the hospital (Coch, 2015).
As part of hurricane preparedness prior to the beginning of the season, at least there should drinking water placed on reserve with the hospitals suppliers supplying the precious commodity in time (Magnusson, Bidlot, Lang, Thorpe, Wedi, & Yamaguchi, 2014). The drinking water should go a long way in serving the hospital staff and patients together with visitors, during the whole hurricane season (Coch, 2015).
Hospital management should set up lodging facilities for the hospital staff so as to enable the staff work without restlessness and anxiety over their shoulders. This will enable them perform to the best of their ability to save lives and care for the patients efficiently (Coch, 2015).
The hospital staff should be given enough rest hours and they should be paid properly during a hurricane (Schmeltz, González, Fuentes, Kwan, Ortega-Williams, & Cowan, 2013). This will boost their morale and confidence when attending to the patients, they should be honored for the work they are doing by the community and by local, state and federal Health agencies (Coch, 2015).
Hospital staff should undergo disaster preparedness and response training exercise annually so as to be prepared all time for any disaster (Coch, 2015). They should under the regulations plans and guidelines in disaster management and response, this will help them keep focus mentally during the hurricane season (Coch, 2015).
With predicted global warming of the climate, coastal cities and towns may be increasingly vulnerable to flooding resulting from hurricanes and other severe storms. These events can have a devastating toll, as witnessed in previous catastrophic events as such as the Tsunamis in Asia and the Hurricanes along the U.S. Coastline. Proper planning to disaster response and management must be tailored to the needs of local health jurisdictions; public health protection depends to a great extent on minimizing critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. It is also clear from experiences described above that emergency preparedness for hurricanes will need to include preparation for both short term and long term needs of the most vulnerable populations.
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