Disasters – Natural and Unnatural

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Disasters are calamitous events that range from catastrophic property or personal injuries to loss of life. Disaster frequently involves community-wide devastation. Natural disasters-occurrences in nature over which humanity has little or no control include tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires.

Nearly every spring, a tornado hits a school somewhere in the United States. Although many tornadoes occur in the late afternoon or early evening, that is, after school hours, others hit with little warning while the school is in session. Flying glass, falling roofs, and disappearing walls create havoc, destruction, injury, and even death. Putting the school back together is a daunting task. Buildings need to be rebuilt and classes have to be relocated. Materials may or may not be salvageable. After an experience like this, each time a storm approaches, all students including those with exceptionalities become upset and school is again disrupted.

Hurricanes are severe tropical cyclones originating in warm ocean areas and generating winds of sustained velocities over 74 miles an hour. More than any other natural hazard affecting the United States, hurricanes in recent years have been characterized by a decreasing loss of life coupled with rapidly rising loss of property. Hurricanes can debilitate schools. When a hurricane is approaching, schools usually close to minimize loss of property or life within school buildings. Some schools include, just in case, an emergency shelter for students, teachers, and administrators when the storm hits. Although either measure helps prevent loss of life, the emotional shock may not be prevented.

Almost every community in the United States suffers from some flooding problem, primarily caused by the runoff from heavy storms. The damage to property can be intense. In many communities, floods damage schools on a continuing basis. Therefore, current laws should prevent a new school from being built in a flood plain. Schools can also become flooded from dams or flood walls collapsing or from excessive rains. When a threat of a flood can be predicted, loss of life within the school can be averted, but the flood damage due to filthy water cannot be. Flood waters frequently damage floors, walls, desks, and materials.

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