By Allison G. S. Knox
Most Americans do not understand the massive impacts of disasters to their communities. For most Americans, serious disasters result from hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes or earthquakes.
But the overall aftereffects of disasters are far more complicated. Disasters typically involve an entire community, such as businesses, public transportation, first responder organizations, homeowners, power companies and schools. Natural events like hurricanes, wildfires, floods or earthquakes are only the catalysts for what will come next.
Often, there are administrative failures that make it difficult for a community to bounce back quickly after a disaster. For instance, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted in multiple administrative disasters.
When a hurricane or other natural event is about to happen, reporters tend to focus on the mechanics of that natural event – such as the wind speed of a hurricane or the magnitude of an earthquake – instead of focusing on what its results would be for a community. If more reporters focused on the aftereffects of disasters – such as a lack of power, no access to banks, damaged or flooded roads, and some time to wait before first responders can arrive – we may see some changes in how people behave during and after disasters.
Disasters Cause Infrastructure Problems
It is hard for many Americans to realize that disasters create numerous infrastructure problems. For instance, Hurricane Ian caused extensive flooding and took down power lines, resulting in 2.7 million people losing power. Consequently, it will be up to Florida communities to ensure that roads are cleared of debris and utilities are back up and running again.
Reporters Need to Focus on the Right Topics
It is imperative that reporters also explain all of the infrastructure problems that come after disasters, so that communities and their residents can be better prepared. News reporters often won’t focus on the aftereffects of disasters because that information is too difficult to summarize into a news report. But passing on this information to the public will shed light on how difficult it is to rebuild a community after a disaster.