Essay Title: 

The Vulnerability of the Elderly During Hurricance Katrina: What went wrong and how major loses could have been prevented.

March 21, 2016 | Author: | Posted in public administration, social sciences





Social disasters resulting from natural phenomenon as hurricanes have often recorded an aftermath trail of sorrow from lost of lives properties and a traumatized mental capacity for especially the direct victims . In contemporary US , the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina in the 29th of August 2005 , left many story to tell , especially with most hit state of New Orleans and [banner_entry_middle]

its neighboring states like Louisiana and Mississippi . Those greatly affected in these areas were the elderly and poor . Due to their status in the social stratification , most of the elderly and poor were unable to embark on a quick evacuation from the scene of the hurricane . And after the landfall of Hurricane Katrina many people in this social stratum recorded many deaths , resulting from hunger , ailment and lack of shelter to keep them warm . Fussell (2005 have it that , Low income residents had fewer choices with respect to how to prepare for the imminent arrival of Katrina . Since the storm was at the end of the month and many low-income residents of New Orleans live from paycheck to paycheck , economic resources for evacuating were particularly scarce . Low income New Orleanians are those who are likely to own vehicles , making voluntary evacuation more costly and logically more difficult .elderly people and those with chronic health conditions or disabilities within each social stratum were less likely to evacuate than those in good health . As a result of this many elderly and disabled people died in the Convention Center and in their homes during Hurricane Katrina . This became compounded by the health conditions of some elderly where they had symptoms of disease such as diabetes asthma , and high blood pressure . These conditions of health are easily managed during normal circum stances , but during emergencies that came with Hurricane Katrina , many died as a result of their being the cut off from medical treatment

In the present days the number of elderly living alone and dying lonely in their homes is on the increase , hence it has made them more vulnerable , where they cannot help themselves against impending dangers from disasters . Those who survived during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were further thrown to into a state of disarray , mostly due to the level of social networks they have . Social network not only shaped whether people evacuated before or after Hurricane Katrina struck and therefore how they evacuated , but also how the displaced reconstruct their lives . According to Menjivar (2000 ) cited in Fussell (2005 , not all social networks are equal- while some connect people who can offer generous assistance in attractive destinations , others have limited opportunity to connect with people who are similarly disadvantages a s they are

Proper care is needed for the elderly , since it is a known fact that they are most susceptible and more traumatized than their younger counterparts during period of disaster . According to Kohn et al (2005 There are reasons to argue that the elderly are at increased risk of developing psychopathology following a natural disaster . The elderly may be suffering from comorbid physical diss of a chronic nature their social network may have weakened due to losses , particularly of a spouse , and exits of children , friends and relatives from the community they may have limited financial means to deal with material losses and the elderly may have accumulated stresses over the years that eroded their coping capacities . Furthermore , despite the elderly being at a lower income level compared to younger adults , it is often seen as a social class-blind controlling for this confounder is necessary since psychopathology is inversely related to social class affiliation

This research study would have its focus on the vulnerability of the elderly in Mississippi . While at the same time other references from Louisiana and New Orleans would be made . Hurricane Katrina made huge and massive destructions in three poorest states in U .S . Louisiana with a poverty rate of 22 percent Mississippi , with a poverty rate of 23 percent and Alabama , with a poverty rate of 20 percent (Kaiser Commission , 2005 . Hurricane Katrina landfall in Mississippi hit its Gulf Coast and created massive damage , leaving 236 people dead , 67 missing , and an estimated 125 Billion in damages . A complex apartment building with some thirty residents seeking shelter inside collapsed several casinos , which were floated on barges to comply with Mississippi land-based gambling laws were washed hundreds of yards inland by waves A 30 foot (9 .1 meter ) storm surge came ashore wiping out 90 of the building along the Biloxi-cult port coastline . A number of building and bridges were washed away . The counties most affected by the storm in Mississippi are Hancock county and Harrison county . While it is observed that counties like Hinds , Warren , and Leake recorded some deaths also About 800 ,000 people through the state experienced power outages , which is almost a third of the population (Wikipedia , 2005

The landfall of Katrina has further led to worsen the poverty level of people residing in these areas , which hitherto is considered as the poorest states in U .S . And the capability of them footing their health bill after the storm havoc , coupled with the lost of their jobs and no security health coverage from the previous employers , this makes it very difficult to attain . According to Kaiser Commission (2005 , `An estimated 400 ,000 jobs have been lost many of those who lost jobs have lost not only their source of income but also the health insurance coverage that their former employers offered . Since so many of those displaced were impoverished before Katrina struck and because many more have become impoverished on the aftermath of the storm . It is then not realistic to expect those displaced , many of whom now have no income and no health service coverage to bear the cost of needed health care service . Those mostly affected are the elderly , who are leaving lonely lives and most of whom are dependent on relatives for their sustenance Significant numbers of elderly displaced by Katrina , require home and community-base care or nursing home care . As it is observed , in areas directly affected by the storm , frail elderly and disabled individuals who were living in the community have in many cases lost their homes and their family and community supports and now at much greater risk for needing nursing home care (ibid

Many of those displaced by Katrina are uninsured , and , and large number are enrolled in Medicaid . In Mississippi , about 23 percent of the non-elderly population enrolled in Medicaid . This make it rank first in the nation , while Louisiana ranked 11th , with 19 percent enrolled (ibid . Katrina displayed a high number of elderly and disabled dual eligible , many of which are dependent on medications of function independently and remain in the community whereby , the consequences of an interruption in drug coverage could be unnecessary hospitalization or premature nursing home placement . Thus , according to Kaiser Commission (2005 , it is expected that the Federal government could support efforts to extend Medicaid to Katrina survivors by enacting legislation to provide a temporary 100 percent federal financing for those impoverished or displaced by the Katrina to ease the financial burden on the states directly affected by the hurricane as well as the states of refuge where large numbers of evacuees are located

The aftermath of disaster period have being a period for government and policy makers to retrace their steps and try to adjust their policies to check lapses in area of disaster management . After the land fall of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana , Mississippi and Alabama with such devastating force , John Overton the Pines President and others who work with the elderly are reevaluating their disaster plans . Overton said the Pines might need to consider evacuating farther when the most dangerous storms looms and might require an investment in hurricane shutters or other protection (Hull , 2005

It is recorded that individual age 55 and above was mostly socially vulnerable during Hurricane Katrina . The landfall of the storm stood at 1 ,422 as of March 7 , 2006 this came mainly from Louisiana (1 ,106 ) and Mississippi (238 (Lindsay 2006 quoted in Rhome 2006 . For Mississippi , according to Recovery News (2005 , more than 2billion is being poured into programme by the Federal Assistance after the first two months after the landfall of Katrina . About 499 ,811 , by October 25 2005 , have applied for assistance in the 49 disaster declared area in Mississippi . Also 723 .4 million in grants have been allocated to Mississippi after the disaster in August 29 till October 25 , 2005 . this include 606 .9 million for minimal home repairs , direct housing and temporary rental costs not covered by insurance and 116 .4 million for serious needs , including medical dental personal property , funeral , transportation , moving and storage expenses (Recovery News , October 2005

By December 15 , 2005 the assistance provided to individuals and households reached a high of more than 945 million , while Public Assistance obligated funds at this period stood a it is also noted that in Mississippi four counties with the most recorded number of registered individual for assistance during this period are Forrest , Harrison , Hinds and Jackson counties (Recovery News December 2005


The following under listed are those problems that interest the researcher in embarking on this research work , in to proffer solutions to them

i . The intensity of vulnerability of the elderly during Hurricane Katrina led to the lost of lives , many incurred severe pains and were traumatized , and others lost properties . The question here is who is at fault and who is to be blamed for negligence of duty and responsibility in safe guarding these senior citizens against the death and trouble and lost they incurred during and after the hurricane struck

ii . What is the proper way of managing disasters of grieve consequence , such a s Hurricane Katrina . How can the helpless in society , as the elderly , be effectively assisted in to protect their lives and prevent them from undergoing untold suffering that many times result in their death

iii . How can the elderly in the society be equipped with the necessary knowledge and emergence fighting techniques to contribute in the struggle for survival during emergences and crisis leading to disaster

iv . The increasing rate of elderly living alone and dying lonely in the home is increasing in modern days . How can this phenomenon be addressed in to reduce the vulnerability of the elderly during emergencies and disasters from hurricanes and other natural occurrences

v . The effective management of the aftermath of disasters as Hurricane Katrina would go a long way in preventing further deaths . But as it is witnessed during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina , many elderly died as a result of starvation , lack of proper catering for their ill health and no immediate shelter to keep them warm . Thus , the problem here has to do with the lapses in the management of post crises and disasters in regard to curtailing the vulnerability of the helpless elderly caught up in the scenario

vi . Social networks of victims during times of emergencies go a long way in helping them find immediate succor during evacuation and in the rebuilding of their lives in the aftermath of the crisis or disaster . But for those poor and sometimes elderly with no solid social network whereby they can only rely on people of the same status as theirs . This therefore leaves them with little or no help Therefore they are rendered vulnerable to disasters arising from natural occurrences like hurricane

vii . Office holder in different government levels in whom the responsibilities lie to for proper evacuation and management of crisis and disasters often times have failed to carry out these functions due to negligence and buck passing of responsibility


The following are the objectives the research tends to achieve

i . To know the best way of managing disaster in to re duce the vulnerability of the elderly during and after the disaster had struck

ii . To determine ways the elderly themselves can be equipped through information dissemination and other techniques to aid them in safeguarding themselves in times of disasters , such as hurricanes

iii . To make the acknowledgement of responsibility traceable to government agencies for crisis management . And also ways in which government at every level could collaborate in assisting senior citizens who are helpless in times of disaster

iv . To determine the social implication of the neglect of the elderly during disaster crisis . And how this has resulted in social change in the perception of the role of government and social care services

v . To determine ways in which social securities and protection of the elderly can be improved upon in our every d ay dynamic and complex society

vi . To determine ways in which the increase in solitary and lonely living of the elderly , how this can be managed and controlled in to prevent the level of vulnerability these category of people face during disaster periods and the periods the precede them


The importance of this study to the generality of people includes the following

i . It would enable the general society to know ways in which the helplessness of the elderly during crisis and disasters how it can be managed in to make them less susceptible to the trauma and destructive consequences to their lives and properties

ii . The research would also make us know the best strategy for evacuation and the protection of the lives of the helpless elderly during periods of disasters and emergencies

iii . Government agencies and the different levels of government would know the role they should play in the effective management of disaster and the reduction of the level of vulnerability of the elderly during such periods and the period that precede them

iv . This research work would also contribute to the body of knowledge thus it would be readily available for those researchers who have interest to carry similar research work in this area

v . This research work would also be beneficial to the general society at large in the sense that it would give them the necessary in formation on how elderly vulnerability during disasters can be managed and losses prevented


The following are the hypotheses drawn for this research work

i . There is a significant relationship between the level of information dissemination to the elderly on imminent disaster , and the level of the elderly vulnerability to the occurrence of the disaster

ii . The level of social networks of the elderly is a significant factor to safeguard them against vulnerability in disasters such as hurricane in period when they struck and that preceding them

iii . Vulnerability of the elderly during disaster has negative implication which affects their level of social interaction in their later years


This research work would cover the destructive implication of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi , which occurred on the 29th of August 2005


The following constitute the limitation to this study

There is dearth of material covering this area of research . As such there is need to embark on rigorous sourcing of material to complete the work

Due to limitation in time factor , arising from personal activities the time for academic in carrying out this research study is restricted

Another constraint is the financial requirement needed in carrying out activities for the completing of the research work . These include , inter alia , visiting respondents to administer questionnaire , material sourcing , typesetting work and binding

It would become difficult to get first hand information from those victims of the disaster , since they would have relocated or still in a state of distress


Social Networks : social networks are those external relationship links and connections which an individual can rely on in times of need or when the need arise to interact or seek help . It is seen that there are different level in social networks . An individual may have those who are affluence and influential in their social network hence they are better supported in time s of need , while for another person it would comprise those who are in the same lower stratum or in the same need level here they tendency to derive help is very slim

Vulnerability : Vulnerability can be defined as a state of being exposed to danger or being capable of incurring injury or hurt directly or indirectly . Vulnerability , according to the Collins English dictionary (Second Edition 1986 , is defined as , inter alia , capacity to be physically or emotionally wounded or hurt . The root word of vulnerability comes from Latin word Vulnus meaning `a wound ‘ and Vulnerare , `to wound . Specifically , the word vulnerable is derived from the Late Latin `Vulnerabilis , the term used by the Romans to describe the state of a soldier lying wounded on the battlefield (Adger Kelly 2001

Hurricane : This is a massive storm with heavy wind capable of causing huge destruction to erected structures and causes death to living things


Social change which is defined as a significant alternation of social structures , i .e . a change in pattern of social action and interaction (Moore , cited in Lauer 1977 :4 , this is a phenomenon that can result in where there is inequality and chaos in social . Thus , attitude change of individual towards interpersonal relationship , organizations or institutions may occur to reflect the basis of neglect or an unequal basis to right of accessing resources , right to safety and other social rights and protection . For the elderly in the society given their physical strength and alertness , they compare to younger people are more vulnerable to disaster . Thus , for fair treatment it requires that special attention is given to them . According to Friedsam (1962 :151 there are two justifications for directing special attention to older persons in disasters . One is immediate and practical the other is theoretical . On the practical level , many older persons present problems which , at least in magnitude , are not to be found in other age groups An example of this is the relatively high incidence of mobility and limiting chronic disease among the aged . This feature in the elderly people add to create the requirement of a special consideration in planning for evacuation , this is liken to the need for continued schooling among children and adolescents . Also , on the immediate and practical reason for special attention to the elderly during disaster period boils to the fact that there are some evidence that , compared with younger groups , older persons are less likely to receive warning and are more reluctant to evacuate . On the theoretical level , the justification for investigation specifically directed towards the aged in disaster is to be found in the analysis of age statutes and age-related roles as a general theoretical problem . Thus , the determinant of a generic age classification bracket is required . This is of special importance where `the aged ‘ are concerned since such a term is usually categorized rather than behavioral in its reference Thus , there is a tendency to use sixty-five as the chronological gateway to `old age ‘ regardless of its relationship to roles . At the same time certain roles are often imputed to `the aged ‘ which are not congruent with a chronological definition of the status or with each other (ibid

For the aged their social vulnerability is high and the resilience to shock during disaster is lower compared to the younger people . According to Adger Kelly (2001 , the adaptive options open to any social grouping are constrained by the resilience of the human and natural systems that comprise or define that grouping . A high level of resilience implies greater opportunities for absorbing external shocks and successful adaptation to both social and environmental change . Low resilience means the vulnerability to externally imposed change is greater , i .e . adaptive options are limited . Giving the low resilience level and high vulnerability of the aged , in terms of crisis such as disaster from hurricanes , social workers need to develop special skill in handling people of this age bracket in other to control the level of social chaos that may be created if not properly handled . In this view Warren et al (1998 , argued that beyond specific clinical situations chaos and complexity theory appear to imply some general ideas about the way in which social workers should approach their clients .they seem to imply for instance , that an understanding of the process of human change is every bit as important , and deserve as much attention , as an understanding of specific interventions to promote change , this is so because sensitivity to initial conditions will cause the same intervention to have different effects depending on when it is used

Fro this research study the theoretical framework is based on social vulnerability and resilience theory . According to Adger Kelly (2001 :19 , social vulnerability and resilience are determined by a host of complex social processes and economic factors from access to resources through to informal and formal social security , insurance and social capital . In other words ‘ social vulnerability and resilience is determined by the concept of individual or group entitlement and access to resources

Social scientists are of the view that state of vulnerability to environmental change is the same for different populations living under different environmental conditions or faced with complex interactions of social norms , political institutions and resources endowments technologies and inequalities . Moreover , it has been demonstrated that the social causes of vulnerability often evolve on much more rapid temporal scales than the environmental changes that interact with these processes (ibid

Thus , for the elderly their social vulnerability is high and the ability to absorb shock and cope with trauma arising from disaster tend to be low . The vulnerability of the elderly can come in diverse form food insecurity , or famine , and natural hazard . According to Watts Bohle (1993 , vulnerability to food insecurity can be defined in terms of first , the exposure to stress and crises second , the capacity to cope with stress and third , the severe consequences of stress and the r3elated risk of slow recovery . Taking a look at vulnerability from natural hazard , Blaike et al (1994 , risk as consisting of two components . First , is a measure of the natural hazard which is equivalent to Watt and Bohle ‘s `exposure ‘ and the second is the vulnerability itself which is equivalent to capacity , and this is largely determined by socio-economic structure and property relations Also , the vulnerability according to human dimension is the capacity to anticipate , cope with , result , and recover from the impact of a natural hazard (ibid . according to Adger Kelly (2001 , social vulnerability does not equate directly with the level of poverty or any other single characteristic of an individual or group as there are many diverse factors involved in determining the capacity to respond . Thus the indicators of vulnerability include poverty , marginalization and access to resources resource dependency and diversity inequality and marginalization and the appropriateness of institutional structures for enhancing resilience . Social vulnerability then should be assessed based on the examination of the structures of institutions and constraints on their evolution and on the constraints they exact on individuals


1 .9 .1 Research Design method

The survey research design would be used in conducting this research work . A survey design is a research method where data are collected from a defined population to describe the present condition of the population using the variables under study . Survey design does more than merely uncover data . They interpret , synthesis and integrate these data and point to implications and interrelationship (Bankole , 2003 :15 . Since the subject matter for this study is a social issue that affects a large group and the generality of people , the survey research method becomes most feasible and more appropriate in the conduct of the study

1 .9 .2 Subjects for the study

The people that were directly affected by the Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi , including those who assisted in voluntary work during the time of emergence in this area . Since they are they are directly affected in the disaster , they would have first hand information to give in this regard . Likewise government workers in agencies that have the responsibility for crisis management would also constitute subject for the study , including those who took voluntary work in the emergency period

Sample Size

The sample size , i .e , the number of subjects top be included for the study would comprise of 100 respondents . 60 of the respondents constituting 60 people , would be those who are directly affected in the hurricane including the elderly in Mississippi , while 40 of the respondents would be workers and other people that directly assisted in the voluntary work during the hurricane occurrence . The categorization of the subjects for the study in the above giving proportion becomes appropriate , since there are greater numbers of those directly affected in the hurricane occurrence than the workers that help during the emergence period . The number of sample size is adequate because it could be properly managed and data derived would be adequately analyzed , than larger sample size


The quota sampling method would be used in selecting the subjects for the study . Quota sampling is a non-probability sampling method , a form of accidental sampling done in line with quota or strata in the population . According to Odiagbe (1999 :48 , quota sample is selected in such a way that various components appear not only in proportion to their sizes in the target population but selection is stopped as soon as enough of the sub-group is selected . The quota sampling method is adequate for this study since there is a placement of quota selection on those to form the research respondents . Also , quota sampling being a non-probability method would make the selection of the respondents for the study to be easy . Anyone can be included in the group selection so far the number of selection does not exceed the 60-40 percentage ratio apportioned for elderly and those involved in voluntary social work during the time of the hurricane struck , respectively

1 .9 .4 Data Collection Methods

In the course of conducting this research , both primary and secondary data would be utilized . The primary data would be generated from self administered questionnaires to the respondents . The questionnaires would contain two sections . Sections A , would have the bio-data of the respondents , while section b would have questions relating to the study and the research questions . The questionnaires would be sent through e-mail and postal mail to reach wide areas and prevent the restriction of selecting the respondents to a particular area . This would also save cost of reaching respondents in distant areas . The choice of choosing questionnaire as instruments for data collection boils to the fact that it would allow for ease in data collection and also position the respondent in a calm atmosphere , devoid of threat and victimization when giving answers to the questions . Also would be secrecy and protection of respondent privacy when questionnaires are administered . Linkert 5 scale measurement would be used to grade the answers given b y the respondents . Below are the grade apportioned to each answer given

Options Apportioned score

Strongly agree 5

Agree 4

Uncertain 3

Disagree 2

Strongly disagree 1

The secondary data would be used in deriving data and comparing previous findings and drawing conclusions for the study . The secondary data would be derived from journals , textbooks , newss articles , Internet materials and government gazettes


The of this research study is `Vulnerability of the Elderly during Hurricane Katrina : What Went Wrong and How Major Loses Could Have Been Prevented . From the the independent variable is `The vulnerability of the elderly during Hurricane Katrina , while the dependent variable is `How major loses could have been prevented . To operationalized the , we say , the prevention of major loses during the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina is determined by the effective management of the vulnerability to the disaster faced by the elderly in scenario of the occurrence


The quantitative analysis method would be use for the analysis of the data for the study . Chi-square (X2 ) would be used in testing the research questions . The formula for the chi-square (x2 ) is

X2 (O-E )2


Where `O ‘ represent the observed frequency

`E `represents the expected frequency

The decision rule for the chi- square (X2 ) include

Accept the null hypothesis (H0 , when the calculated value of X2 is lesser than the table value of X2 . Hence , reject the alternate hypothesis (H1

Reject the null hypothesis (H0 , when the calculated value of X2 is greater than the table value of X2 . Hence , accept the alternate hypothesis (H1

The findings of the research study would be derived based on the conclusion reached from the statistical analysis carried out


The ethical considerations to be put in place in the course of conducting this research work include the following

1 . The data for the research work would not be falsified . Hence , it would be generated based on the actual response the respondents give

2 the privacy of the respondents would be protected any given information would only be utilized for the conducting the research study

3 . All used secondary data would be adequately referenced in to prevent plagiarism

4 . The research work and findings would be carried out not with the intension of victimizing anyone , but for purely academic purposes


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Wikipedia (2005 , Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Mississippi HYPERLINK “http /en .wikipedia .org /wiki /Effect_of_Hurricane_Katrina_on_Mississippi br http /en .wikipedia .org /wiki /Effect_of_Hurricane_Katrina_on_Mississippi (14 /06 /06


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