Natural disasters have adverse effects on communities. They disrupt communication, destroy buildings, and damage the environment. Therefore, the relevant authorities should instigate measures that will ensure information on natural disasters reaches the public on time. I believe that it is important for the community boards to together with the NYC OEM to be involved in passing information to the community members on how to prepare for natural disasters due to three primary reasons. First, this information helps community members obtain insight into preventive measures they can take to reduce the effects. Second, information disseminated by the community boards reduces the impact of natural disasters. Lastly, information provided helps citizens gain understanding of what to do and not to do during and after the natural disaster occurs. This paper presents an argument for the importance of information dissemination by the community boards over the current government agencies.
Community Boards (CBs)
CBs are local bodies that play a vital role in enhancing the quality of life for all citizens in the United States. According to the NY Charter, the boards have three primary functions that include augmenting the delivery of city amenities, planning and evaluating land use, and making suggestions on the municipality’s budget (Dongping, 2013). Furthermore, CBs must be consulted about the placement of numerous municipal amenities in the society. The functions of boards have been extended due to the increasing complexity of current planning matters. Hereby, they provide an individualized approach to community issues that encourages development in all areas. Community boards address concern and complaints forwarded by the community residents. They are also tasked with giving permits for parties and street fairs. Interestingly, community boards do not have the mandate to direct any city agency to conduct a particular task (Havrilesky, 2010). Nevertheless, community boards are often successful in solving the issues their respective communities face since they are directly involved with community members that allows them to acquire insight into the major issues affecting their communities.
Structure of Community Planning Boards
Every community board is run by a district manager who institutes an office, hires the workforce, and executes procedures to enhance the distribution of town amenities to the region. The organization of CBs varies taking into account community requirements. Several boards structure committees grounded on functional areas such as land utilization review, education, and budget. Moreover, other boards are structured by area committees concerned with issues affecting particular geographic regions.
How Appointments Are Made
There are fifty-nine CBs in every city, and each board comprises approximately fifty unpaid members. Half of the board members are selected by the city council members of their respective districts, whereas the borough presidents choose the board members. The board members must live or work in the community. Talking about the appointments, they are made in spring. Community boards do not have any legal authority and cannot, thus, order any official. The charter dictates that every community board will consider individual requirements of their community and collaborate with elected government officials regarding matters of concern to the community. The charter also mandates monthly meetings, apart from July and August.
The Need of Community Boards in Mitigating Natural Disasters
Currently, the federal government is focused on preventing man-made disasters. In fact, there are inadequate measures set by the federal government to control natural disasters. Consequently, the effect of natural disasters is particularly high in the United States, as evidenced by past incidences such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. The storm recorded numerous casualties that either died or acquired health conditions. Despite the United States being at the forefront of helping other countries handle their disasters, it is evident that the country needs to enhance its response to natural disasters to ensure fewer casualties and limit extreme cases that often cause the death of the victims.
The unclear role played by various government agencies and the processes involved before help is availed to an area that has experienced a disaster increase the casualties and the impact of the catastrophe. Due to the above inefficiencies of federal systems, a more specialized approach is required to prepare for disasters. Community planning boards provide a favorable platform for planning. Disasters also have an adverse economic impact on the area where they occur. They disrupt communication lines and buildings, causing damages to both the municipality and community members. Rebuilding the infrastructure damaged by natural disasters consumes a lot of time and financial resources.
Natural disasters resulting from extreme weather conditions lead to numerous adverse conditions to the environment, citizens, and the local authority. The environment suffers from soil erosion which destroys many plants and disturbs the ecosystem. Furthermore, the residents leaving in disaster-stricken areas experience health issues that are caused directly and indirectly by the occurrence of natural disasters.
New York City Office of Emergency Management is accountable for emergency management plans. It conducts regular drills that test the preparedness of emergencies and ensures that other organizations tasked with emergency operations follow the set plans (Jha & Duyne, 2010). This organization fosters communication amongst different agencies which aids in lowering the effects of disasters and casualties. OEM has an alert program according to which the citizens provide their emails to be notified of pending disasters. This institution should ensure that it passes information to the public informing them of the agencies that provide help during natural disasters. Therefore, the organization has a vital role in conjunction with community boards to tell the community members about impending natural disasters and preventive measures they can take to reduce the impact (Dongping, 2013).
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Importance of Disseminating Information by Community Boards
The information provided by community boards helps community members to take preventive measures. Information provided by community boards and the emergency department would serve as a warning to the citizens living in an area that is about to be struck by a natural disaster. The warning would help the residents relocate to areas that are outside the magnitude of disasters (Leal, 2013). Previously, government forecasting agencies have made accurate forecasts relating to natural disasters. Nevertheless, the information disseminated did not reach the target audience since it was obtained from a national level. When the community board distributes the information, it reaches a greater audience and, thus, encourages them to relocate to safe areas. Community boards are directly involved with members of the community. Evidently, all people in the community acknowledge good intention and actions taken by community boards.
Furthermore, the information helps the community members know what they should do and what should not during and after the crisis. Dissemination of information is important since it helps in preparing for disaster. The information provided gives the community members a list of activities that they should or should not do when the disaster strikes and also where they can get help or wait for help, without exposing themselves to further risk (Dongping, 2013). This information is important since it helps people know of measures they can take to ensure that the damage from disasters is minimal. Moreover, the information provided includes first aid measures that can be performed on victims before help arrives. Therefore, the impact and casualties from disasters would also decrease. In many circumstances, the casualties from natural disasters increase while they are waiting for help. The reason is that the victims engage in inappropriate activities that expose them to further risk. Information from community boards would assist the community members to gain understanding on how to conduct themselves as they await rescue. In addition, the information from the community board would help the citizens to seek help in hospitals and other related institutions. When disasters occur, people living in the community are at risk of acquiring various medical conditions that can affect them immediately or in the future (Havrilesky, 2010). For instance, floods expose people to numerous water-borne diseases as well as chest conditions. The majority of these diseases is not accompanied by any symptoms or signs and may make people think they are healthy. Nonetheless, the diseases will affect them later and may be at advanced stages. Hence, information from the community board on actions to take after the crisis helps people in the community seek early medical intervention. Some of the citizens may also require counseling, especially if they lost loved ones during the disaster. Furthermore, the events may cause community members to experience trauma, thereby necessitating counseling from professional organizations (Jha & Duyne, 2010). Thus, community boards would explain the importance of seeking help from these institutions.
The information from community boards reduces the impact of natural disasters. When the information from the emergency department is passed to community boards to be disseminated in the community, many citizens will take the message seriously and, hence, comply with the provided measures (Pine, 2009). As a result, casualties from the disaster would be significantly reduced. Often, some forecasted disasters do not occur or their impact is not as high as indicated by various government agencies. In fact, this is a primary reason why many people may ignore warnings provided by forecasting agencies. Nonetheless, when the emergency department collaborates with community planning boards, the citizens comply with the suggestions made by the two bodies. The information helps local citizens escape various diseases that impact on their health, causing them to be a burden to the economy. The reason is that when citizens cannot engage in economic activities after the disaster, the affected area will suffer from reduced business activities. Nonetheless, the information from community boards has a significant role in protecting the health of the community members (Jha & Duyne, 2010).
Natural disasters have a negative impact on the environment, the community members, and the economy. They cause people to lose loved ones and acquire medical conditions. They cause soil erosion which upsets the ecosystem and destroys plant life. The disasters also destroy communication lines, power lines, and buildings. Rebuilding the infrastructure requires a significant amount of resources that a local municipality may not have in its budget. Thus, it is necessary for the relevant authorities responsible for mitigating natural disasters to take measures that will reduce the impact of natural disasters.
Information is a vital aspect that helps in mitigating disasters. It determines the impact and casualties from natural disasters. Information helps the community members by warning them of risk areas that will be affected by natural disasters. Therefore, people can move to less dangerous areas where the impact of disasters would be minimal. However, information does not reach people efficiently since it is passed by national agencies. Consequently, the impact of natural disasters is high.
Community boards are useful in passing information to the members of the community due to their involvement in community projects. Therefore, information given by community boards is highly efficient in reducing the casualties and impact of natural disasters.
However, community boards face several challenges that prevent them from being effective during the crisis. First, they do not have any legal authority. Therefore, the recommendations they make may not necessarily be adopted by government agencies. Second, they may be affected by political activities. The elected officials are often hesitant to implement recommendations made by community boards particularly if they involve spending vast financial resources. Therefore, community boards should be given some mandate to enforce recommendations they make to government agencies. This move will allow community boards to have a greater impact during disasters.