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Learning from the COVID-19 Pandemic: When Public Health and Tornado Threats Converge

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  • 1 a Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi
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Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in unprecedented challenges that dramatically affected the way of life in the United States and globally in 2020. The pandemic also made the process of protecting individuals from tornadoes more challenging, especially when their personal residence lacks suitable shelter, and particularly for residents of mobile homes. The necessity of having to shelter with other families—either in a public shelter or at another residence—to protect themselves from a tornado threat conflicted with the advice of public health officials who recommended avoiding public places and limiting contact with the public to minimize the spread of COVID-19. There was also a perception that protecting against one threat could amplify the other threat. A survey was undertaken with the public to determine the general viewpoint to see if that was indeed the case. The results found that it was possible to attenuate both threats provided that careful planning and actions were undertaken. Understanding how emergency managers should react and plan for such dual threats is important to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also maintaining the safety of the public. Because there was no precedence for tornado protection scenarios amid a pandemic, both short-term and long-term recommendations were suggested that may also be useful in future pandemic situations.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Craig D. Croskery, cc3649@msstate.edu

Abstract

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in unprecedented challenges that dramatically affected the way of life in the United States and globally in 2020. The pandemic also made the process of protecting individuals from tornadoes more challenging, especially when their personal residence lacks suitable shelter, and particularly for residents of mobile homes. The necessity of having to shelter with other families—either in a public shelter or at another residence—to protect themselves from a tornado threat conflicted with the advice of public health officials who recommended avoiding public places and limiting contact with the public to minimize the spread of COVID-19. There was also a perception that protecting against one threat could amplify the other threat. A survey was undertaken with the public to determine the general viewpoint to see if that was indeed the case. The results found that it was possible to attenuate both threats provided that careful planning and actions were undertaken. Understanding how emergency managers should react and plan for such dual threats is important to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while also maintaining the safety of the public. Because there was no precedence for tornado protection scenarios amid a pandemic, both short-term and long-term recommendations were suggested that may also be useful in future pandemic situations.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Craig D. Croskery, cc3649@msstate.edu

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