Many US states are affected by hurricanes which cause massive destruction of property and loss of life. The process of emergency management demands a rapid and efficient response rate, as a way of ensuring disaster relief and recovery. The initial stage of an emergency response scenario is to determine the scope of the affected area or community, the degree of the damage, and the nature of the issue. Such factors vary from one disaster to another. However, there are common requirements such as medical care, food, safe drinking water, and shelter. It is an obligation of experts and professionals within the affected area to conduct an intensive evaluation of the situation to avoid making poor decisions or applying insufficient response measures.
Moreover, hurricanes have the potential to affect human rights, human dignity and social justice in two main ways. The first is through destroying the assets and livelihoods of victims, thereby disenfranchising them from basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing, while condemning them into poverty after the hurricane event. The second is through exposing victims to potential criminal activities that occur during and after hurricanes and other disaster events, which maim, kill or cause psychological distress to victims. This paper holds the position that Maryland should enforce a timely call for the state of emergency prior to a serious hurricane, so that the governor can mobilize resources needed to respond to victims, and enforce the law, to safeguard human rights, dignity and social justice even during hurricane events.
According to NASA (2014), hurricanes are large storms that swirl and create winds that can surpass 74mph (119km/hr). These winds move faster than a cheetah and can damage trees and buildings. Hurricanes usually develop over the warm ocean water and if they reach land, they push the water ashore, thereby causing floods. Moreover, weather forecasters are able to determine the intensity and path of a hurricane after it forms in the ocean. Hurricanes are measured using five categories which depend on their intensity and speeds. They are briefly described below;
There are certain parts of a hurricane and they include the eye, which is the storm’s center. And it features partly cloudy skies and light winds. The second is the eye wall which has thunderstorms which rotate at speeds of approximately 38 mph (62 km/hr). The third is the rain bands which feature rains and clouds that cover hundreds of miles, with tornadoes and thunderstorms.
For over a century, Baltimore County in Maryland has experienced several deadly hurricanes that left many people dead, several displaced or injured, and properties completely destroyed. According to the Hurricane Research Division (2008), there are 121 hurricanes that have affected Maryland since 1950. Most of these hurricanes proceed to Washington DC which lies on their path. Most of the hurricanes that affect the East Coast usually end up in the Delmarva Peninsula while Western and Central Maryland usually experience rains from storm remnants. One of the worst hurricanes that affected Maryland was the 1972 Hurricane Agnes which resulted in 19 fatalities due to floods (Bizjournals, 2012). Another was Hurricane Irene which caused over $150 million in damages. Most hurricanes do not hit Maryland; however, over 61 people have died as a result of 12 tropical cyclones since 1950.
In addition to the damage to property and injury or loss to human life, Maryland also experiences environmental risks during hurricanes.
According to the Maryland Department of Environment (2019), Maryland faces huge risks from flooding and winds linked to hurricanes. These storms create health risks such as contamination of drinking water and chemical and oil spills. These adverse physical and environmental effects have a bearing on human rights and social justice. They undermine human dignity and equality by marginalizing victims of hurricanes, many of whom have their livelihood destroyed. It is imperative that the State of Maryland implements interventions that will reduce human rights violations and suffering that is caused by hurricane events.
However, another significant risk that most states do not focus on is the threat to human life that is occasioned by criminal activities that are perpetuated during hurricane events. According to the Scholars Strategy Network (2016), some people turn to anti-social activities such as crime during disaster events. Some of the crimes that have been reported following natural disasters in the US include domestic violence, sexual assault, looting, fraud, murder, and violence. One of the major factors that perpetuate crimes such as looting is the absence of law enforcers and property owners from businesses and homes, which provides criminals with an opportunity to commit crime. Moreover, physical damage caused by disasters such as hurricanes propagates crimes since it provides looters with an opportunity to access valuables and it helps in covering up crimes, since physical damage from hurricanes may make it difficult to collect evidence of a crime. In addition, gender violence has also been reported following hurricanes since there is an absence of law enforcers who are attending to the disaster response at the time. In light of the increased criminality following hurricanes, it is imperative that the State of Maryland develops interventions that will protect the human rights of citizens while enabling victims of crime to access social justice. .
One of the legal measures that can address the impacts of hurricanes is to declare a state of emergency before and during the hurricane. According to the constitution, the county government of Baltimore allows the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to take proactive actions whose main objective is to protect the lives of its citizens and property from destruction (The State of Maryland, 2019). The state of emergency may be called by the Governor as a strategy to address an impending, or in response to a disaster that requires state assistance in mobilizing and supplementing resources that are available, to prevent or mitigate damage, hardship, loss or suffering experienced by the local population. The declaration empowers state agencies to speedily offer held to the affected communities by deploying resources for evacuation, rescue, essential commodities, shelter and quelling disturbances, among other functions.
Taking into consideration the severity of hurricanes (that range from damage to infrastructure, severe flooding, and power outages), it is essential to define constitutionally emergency exits and adequate preparation for all contingencies (American Meteorological Society, 2019). The Maryland state government has the power to authorize a state of emergency in Baltimore, allow the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to engage, use, deploy and coordinate all resources at their disposal to assist the local jurisdictions (such as Baltimore) in managing the disaster. The Executive Branch Departments and Agencies are obligated through the Public Safety Article 14-107 to take over the administrative actions.
By virtue, sufficient human security is a threshold for human development. According to Hampson (2017), human security is an approach that tackles global insecurity by safeguarding human beings from fear and want. El Bernoussi (2014) explains that human dignity is the right that people have to be respected and valued, and it is part of the inalienable and inherent rights that all human beings possess. Corning (2016) defines social justice as a concept that advocates for just and fair relations between individuals and society through social privileges, and equal opportunities to wealth. Human dignity, human security and social justice are pillars of the development of most societies. Societies that do not have social justice and human dignity and security usually disintegrate and end up as failed states since they do not have regard for human life and welfare. It is the role of the state and national government to enforce these principles within the citizenry.
Hurricanes undermine these three important principles by exposing human beings to suffering and destroying their sources of livelihood. As has been discussed, hurricanes cause huge damages to property and loss of lives. They also destroy neighbourhoods, homes and businesses of their victims. Once this happens, human beings are unable to live in dignity since they cannot access even the basic of needs such as food, shelter and clothing. Moreover, their assets are destroyed and many are condemned into poverty, where they are further marginalized by society. Moreover, hurricanes also affect human security, dignity and justice through perpetuating crimes. Past lessons have shown that sometimes lawlessness is perpetuated by hurricane and other disaster events. Many criminals take advantage of the laxity in law enforcement response to criminal activities since most resources at the time are deployed to cater for emergency needs. The best way of understanding how hurricanes may undermine these principles, is to study the events that followed Hurricane Katrina.
According to Lee (2010), Hurricane Katrina offered lessons on violence during disaster events. Initially, there were rumors that looters and poor blacks were terrorizing and murdering innocent civilians within the unprotected city. However, facts revealed that there were indeed cases of lawlessness, and some of them were perpetuated by law enforcers.
Lee (2010) explains that the environment that resulted from the hurricane revealed the contempt and anger that people gad towards African Americans. Moreover, it is impossible to know the exact numbers of people killed during the hurricane. In areas such as Algiers Point, armed militias that comprised the white population cordoned off streets and created signs warning that they will shoot looters. A black woman narrated how two white men threatened her with guns and stated that they do not want African Americans in their neighborhood.
Another black man was accosted while sitting on his porch and threatened with guns. He explained that there were no law enforcers to save him. Moreover, law enforcers were also complicit in propagating violence during Hurricane Katrina. According to Lee (2010), many police officers were accessed of murder and cover-ups. For instance at the Danziger Bridge, police officers shot unarmed civilians and killed a mentally disabled man and a teenager. At least eight cases of police misconduct were investigated and many victims and witnesses argued that law enforcers had ignored racial violence for a long time. In each of these cases, human rights were violated and people were targeted by criminals and law enforcers based on their ethnicity and race. Most of the crimes that were perpetrated are serious in nature and they led to the deaths of innocent civilians. It is important to take this issue with the gravity it deserves since these incidents can be easily replicated in Maryland following a hurricane event.
As has been discussed, the law grants governors the power to issue the state of emergency so that they can mobilize resources to respond to hurricanes and other disaster events to preserve human life and ease the suffering of victims. For instance, according to the CBS News (2018), Maryland’s Governor Hogan called for a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Florence which was expected later in the week. The governor implemented this measure to prepare the state for the life-threatening and catastrophic floods that were expected during the hurricane. The main goal of calling the state of emergency was to mobilize state-wide resources and ensure that the state response was immediate and effective pending the arrival of the hurricane.
According to Meares (2016), issuing the state of emergency early can play a wider role of safeguarding human rights, dignity and social justice. Through mobilizing resources that will help potential victims, and developing appropriate risk prevention and response strategies, Maryland will be able to reduce the suffering of victims by ensuring that the injured receive immediate medical help and those in danger are evacuated in a timely manner to safe places. These measures will sustain human rights and dignity by ensuring that people have access to basic amenities even in times of hurricane events.
Another important role that an early call for the State of Emergency will play is to mobilize law enforcers to respond to potential criminal activities that may result in loss of life and property. As has been discussed, several acts of racially-motivated attacks, and general crimes such as looting, were experienced during and after the hurricane. Maryland faces the risk of similar crimes, and the governor should issue a state of emergency as soon as he is notified that a serious hurricane will hit the state, so that law enforcers can deploy resources that will not only help victims of the hurricane, but which will also enforce the law during the period of ten crisis.
According to Lee (2010), one of the reasons why crime rates increase during disaster events such as hurricanes is that law enforcement resources are strained, as officers concentrate resources towards helping victims, at the expense of maintaining law and order. However, issuing the state of emergency early enough will enable the governor to assess the competing needs of disaster response versus maintaining the law, which officers are expected to respond to, and he will seek assistance from the state, neighboring states or nationally, to deploy adequate officers who will play this dual role. Through this action, he will have preserved the dignity and rights of the people he serves by protecting them from criminal elements that operate during hurricanes. He will also prevent racially-instigated attacks that have the potential to displace certain ethnicities and races from parts of Maryland that face such attacks.
In summary, the capstone project sought to provide a comprehensive analysis of emergency response measures to hurricanes in Maryland. Hurricanes cause considerable damage to property and loss of human lives, as well as exposing victims to criminals who take advantage of the disaster event to perpetuate crime. One of the major challenges that Maryland and other states face is having limited resources that cannot cope with the overwhelming needs of victims, while maintaining law enforcement resources needed to fight crime during the disaster period. To address this problem, the governor should enforce a state of emergency in a timely manner to deploy resources that will perform the dual role of responding to the victims of hurricanes while enforcing law and order. The implementation of the state of emergency early enough will restore law and order while maintaining human security, civil liberties, and human rights.
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Corning, P. (2016). The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social
Justice. Chicago: UP Press
El Bernoussi, Z. (2014). “The postcolonial politics of dignity: From the 1956 Suez
nationalization to the 2011 Revolution in Egypt”. International Sociology. 30 (4): 367–82. doi:10.1177/0268580914537848
Hampson, F. (2017). Madness in the multitude: human security and world disorder. Ontario:
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the Continental United States: 1851-2007. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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Retrieved from https://mde.state.md.us/programs/Marylander/pages/hurricanepreparednesstips.aspx
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Security”. University of Chicago Legal Forum 1. Retrieved from https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1564&context=uclf
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research brief. Retrieved from https://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/crime-disaster-hurricane-earthquake-research/
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