A disaster is an occurrence that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community, of which the affected community cannot cope using the locally available resources. The causes of disaster can either be natural hazards, man-made or technological. Natural hazards are those causes that occur naturally, such as geophysical, hydrological, meteorological, climatological, or biological hazards. Human activities cause Man-made and technological threats (Math et al., 2015). Disasters pose risks to life and property, which means that they cause harmful consequences, such as deaths, injuries, destruction to property, loss of livelihood and many others dangers. They are hazardous in that they have the potential to damage the physical environment (Leidig & Teeuw, 2015).
Fire hazard is defined as the state of combustion that occurs when combustible material is ignited and combined with oxygen to give off light, flame, and heat (Marrion, 2016). Fire can be termed as one of the most destructive disasters that can happen in any magnitude. Fires can occur naturally or through human-activated behaviors (Marrion, 2016). Natural fires can arise from lightning strikes, sparks in arid areas, and the eruption of volcanoes. Man-made fires arise from arson, unconscious human activities, or accidents such as gas explosions, faulty electrical appliances, and many others. Fire damages can be thwarted if the initial fire-fighting steps are taken (Muhammad et al., 2018). It is a disaster that can be controlled if its people know what to do to prevent the spread. However, in most cases, people panic, and the first thing they think of is running.
Fire disaster has various features, which include; it spreads quickly, which makes it impossible for people to collect valuables or make calls. All fires start small, and if contained at the initial levels, the disaster can be prevented. When a fire is left to spread in an area where oxygen supply is sufficient and combustible material is available, fires spread within a short time, cause immense damage, and become life-threatening. Fire causes panic to the people nearby, which is a factor that makes fire disasters dramatic. Those close to the sudden fire get panic attacks which makes the situation hard to control (Muhammad et al., 2018). The panic is caused by the knowledge that fire can kill within a few moments, and thus, panic causes the stampede. Another feature is that fire emits burnt gases and fumes, engulfing the whole disaster area making recovery efforts difficult. The smoke and gases have suffocating effects and thus affect the rescue process. Fire is destructive, especially when it is of high magnitude. It destroys the environment through pollution by emitting poisonous gases into the environment. A fire can damage the infrastructure of a town if it is not contained and spreads to the buildings, which would make the town inhabitable. Another feature is that fires are dangerous to human life. The flames cause bodily harm, and inhaling gases can sear the lungs. Gases make people disoriented and drowsy. Fires cause death, injuries, and disfigurement. The leading cause of death during a fire is inhaling gases and asphyxiation, which means burns exceeding the three-to-one ratio.
The various categories of fire disasters include; class A fires, which involve combustible materials such as wood, paper, clothing, plastics, and many others. Class B fires involve flammable liquids such as solvent oils, gasoline, paints, and many others. Class C fires are those that involve energized electrical equipment such as motors, machinery, or appliances. Class D fires involve combustible metals such as lithium, titanium, and magnesium. Lastly, class K fires involve combustible cooking media, especially grease and oils used in commercial kitchens. The paper discusses the impacts of fire disaster, fire disaster management, long-term post-disaster recovery concerns, the role of nurses in fire disasters, and lessons learnt from the fire disaster.
Impacts of fire disaster
Fire disasters have physical, psychological, and economic impacts on the victims, vulnerable groups, rescue teams, and society. Fire’s physical impacts on victims include bodily harm such as burns and difficulties in breathing after inhaling the gases. However, the victims may fail to display any symptoms if they were not severely affected by the fire (Marrion, 2016). However, they may later display unexplainable medical conditions that could have emanated from the fire tragedy, such as muscle pains, dizziness, gastric troubles, and fatigue. Victims of fire disasters are exposed to adverse psychological effects after normalcy has returned. The various psychological disorders include emotional instability, anxiety, and stress reactions. Fire disasters could have a long-term post-traumatic disorder, can cause depression and anxiety to the victims. The emotional trauma may be more to a person who suffered disfigurement and has to live issues for life.
In most cases, they will be forced to recall the incident when they are posed to answer curious members of society on what happened. Others become incapacitated, and this affects them psychologically as they can no longer handle their daily activities (Muhammad et al., 2018). The shock the victims experience during the fire disasters makes them live in denial, making them more vulnerable to other psychological disorders. Victims suffer economically through incapacitation, where a victim becomes disabled from a fire incident. The victims also suffer economically when they develop other complications such as lung problems from inhaling the gases and smoke and spending money on medication.
Vulnerable groups during a fire are those that are affected by the fire but do not experience bodily harm. This group may not suffer physically, but the fire has far-reaching effects on their mental and economic well-being (Math et al., 2015). They suffer huge losses through the fire, such as losing businesses, loved ones, and livelihood, making them economically unstable. When a fire burns down businesses, all those supported by the business will suffer economically through loss of income; for instance, when a fire burns an industry and the industry and has to close due to loss. The victims thus are the employees who become unemployed. Fires may cause the deaths of breadwinners, which affects the economic life of the families that are left. The vulnerable group may also suffer psychologically due to problems related to loss of income and loss of loved ones. They also suffer when caring for a victim of the fire incident, which drains them economically and emotionally.
Rescue workers such as firefighters, emergency medical providers, and other healthcare workers may have long-lasting psychological effects when dealing with victims and managing the vulnerable group. The trauma involved in dealing with burnt bodies and rescuing victims with burns of any degree may cause post-trauma disorders for these rescuers (Marrion, 2016). The source of the psychological problems for this group of people is the nature of their work which exposes them to traumatic events and working for long hours to save lives and return the normalcy. The level of stress for these responders may be higher when dealing with children and people they know. They may also suffer physically when they inhale the gases during the rescue, which may affect them then or later (Masys, 2015). The rescue team members risk their lives during the rescue, and thus they may become victims of fire or any other disaster.
Society suffers economic losses by losing income-generating infrastructure and spending more money to restore the infrastructure after the fire incident. Fire destroys the environment in which society lives, such as through pollution and emission of harmful gases. Fires destroy homes and wild habitats, and thus, it destroys the societal equilibrium (Masys, 2015). Society has to deal with devastated mentally and emotionally victims of fire disasters, which is costly and traumatizing. Society has to deal with emergency evacuation, fatalities, casualties, and loss of human life, which has long-term effects on the victims, rescue team, and other vulnerable groups.
Fire Disaster management Cycle
Fires occur due to man-made or natural causes. Like other disasters, preparedness is crucial as it helps reduce the impact of fire disaster when it happens (Al Kautsa & Mulyono, 2021). Fire preparedness means having a contingency plan that guides the staff and society on what to do in case of fire. While preparing a fire disaster contingency plan, various things need to be put into considerations, such as the level of exposure of the group to be affected, early warnings in case of fire, fire escape routes and fire alarm points, fire safety, and how familiar the group is with the emergency plan. The plan outlines the steps to be taken when there is a fire incident, whether minor or significant. The roles of the recovery team and the staff are explained and who should be present or not (Math et al., 2015). The other fire management step in response to the fire disaster includes implementing the fire disaster plan. The fire response procedure is outlined on the contingency plan where those involved need to activate the fire alarm and evacuate the building. Response in most cases is short-term, and it involves the immediate activities carried out when the fire breaks (Sawalha, 2020). The response activities need to be monitored and adjusted to the changing situation to avoid the further threat to life. The response team should preserve life, theirs, and that of victims and any other vulnerable person. The response activities aim to contain the situation and preserve life.
After the response and containing the situation, recovery activities are activated. This means there is a need to restore the organization’s normalcy, and employees need to recover. The damage caused by the fire incident needs to be assessed, and ways of restoring the organization include rebuilding the structures defined. After the initial recovery activities, the essential services and functions are restored before full force resumption (Sawalha, 2020). The recovery team in an organization should define which services should be resumed first and evaluate the process for subsequent services. The disaster recovery timelines should be defined, which could take months or years to recover. Fire disaster recovery mechanisms are unique for each organization, depending on the organizational ability. Last in the cycle is mitigation, which includes the steps to reduce the impact of the following fire disaster, such as hazard and vulnerability assessment (Haigh, 2017). When disasters occur, the affected community takes the incident as a learning experience and puts more stringent measures to prepare if another disaster of the exact nature occurs. Mitigation acts as a prevention and risk reduction measure and also aims at preventing a future occurrence (Sawalha, 2020).
Long-term post-fire disaster recovery concerns
It is essential to prepare for disasters and have a fully-functioning disaster plan. However, it is equally important to have a comprehensive post recover plan which aims at future risk reduction for sustainable development (Riginos et al., 2019). Post-recovery plans after a fire disaster could include coordination of recovery activities. This means that many people or groups are involved in their recovery process, some of whom may have been affected by the disaster (Al Kautsa & Mulyono, 2021). Thus, bringing the recovery resources together may be a challenge. The issue of communication breakdown is another challenge. When communication lines have been affected by the fire, communicating the recovery activities to the broader network could be a challenge affecting the long-term recovery process. During a crisis, people tech to formulate policies that only work under the current crisis. If another crisis occurs, the policies and procedures will not be applicable in the long run. Therefore, the reactive policies will only focus on the current quick restoration of affected areas and not on future recoveries. Also, when recovery activities are handled under pressure, it may lead to unsuccessful long-term recoveries, increasing social, economic, and environmental exposure to significant fire hazards (Riginos et al., 2019).
When a fire occurs in a settlement, the government may resettle people to other areas as a recovery program. Most of these people live traumatized life due to being moved from their original residencies. The disaster recovery plan outlined in the disaster management process may have been based on technology that changed. Thus the people concerned with disaster recovery may not have the most recent advanced technology (Haigh, 2017). Another concern is handling the victims who are physically, emotionally, and economically affected. The authorities concerned should offer medication to the victims, but the victims are left to cater to their medical bills in most cases. Helping the victims and those affected by the fire disaster is a concern that is usually ignored in the recovery process. These people need economic, social, and emotional support to ensure that they are fully recovered from the impacts. In most cases, the victims have to adapt to the new norm, and their sense of well-being is never restored. They live with the trauma, which changes their lives forever (DeGRAFF et al., 2015).
Role of nurses in the disaster management process
Disaster management is complex and combined efforts in planning, training, and systems-level view of the whole community, hospitals, and organizational employees (Kalanlar, 2018). The process is dynamic, and participation by the local and regional components is vital. The process involves contingency planning through the mitigation stage. Each process requires each stakeholder’s input, and thus, nurses are an essential component of disaster planning, implementation, and response. In pre-disaster management, nurses are involved in designing courses of action that help the organizations to respond to a fire disaster if it happens (Achora & Kamanyire, 2016). Nurses are also involved in offering health expertise during disaster management processes to ensure that the policies ensure victims’ safety. They should participate in the community risk assessment where they identify the potential fire hazards together with the relevant community authority and assess the level of exposure they pose to the community. The nurses should initiate disaster prevention measures such as creating community awareness on fire prevention through public campaigns. The nurses should be involved in community fire drills where they train the public on what to do in case of fire. They should develop evaluation plans to assess the viability of the current fire response and readiness.
At the response stage of the cycle, the nurses’ role is to determine the magnitude of the event and define the health needs of the victims. They need to establish the priorities and the objectives during the response and determine the health resources needed to respond to the health needs identified. The nurses should collaborate with other rescuers such as firefighters and government officials to ensure maximum life preservation. The nurses need to maintain a collaborative chain of command and clear communication with others to enhance the response recovery (Achora & Kamanyire, 2016). The nurses offer triage and initial lifesaving steps on-site before a victim is transported for further medical care. They should ensure essential lifesaving nursing skills that ensure the prevention of further injuries (Kalanlar, 2018). Nurses connect with victims emotionally, and thus, they should ensure to offer any emotional support on-site and after they follow-up on the patients at the hospital. During the response, the nurses should establish safe shelters for the affected groups to receive the help of any kind, such as food and clothing (Kalanlar, 2018). The nurses should ask for backup from other nurses if the situation is overwhelming.
During recovery, the nurses should continue to provide the health services required by the victims and other affected groups. The nurses should evacuate the patients to the appropriate hospitals depending on the level of being affected (Achora & Kamanyire, 2016). The nurses should assess the victims of any long-term physical health outcomes and recommend the best form of treatment or escalate to the doctors for further diagnoses. They should monitor the mental health of survivors and the affected groups to ensure the provision of mental health help. Lastly, the nurses should provide a list of the affected groups to the relevant authorities for help. This will help the authorities plan and budget for the affected groups for adequate support.
Lessons Learnt from Fire Disaster management
The lessons learnt from the fire disaster are that fires can be controlled, especially people made fires if people do not panic, and they have been empowered with the knowledge of how to fight initial fires. Like any other disaster, fire disaster impacts have far-reaching social, economic, and psychological effects on the victims, rescuers, vulnerable groups, and society. Some victims may suffer irreversible damages such as loss of some body parts and incapacitation, which makes them dependent for the rest of their lives (Al Kautsa & Mulyono, 2021). Another lesson learnt is the need to collaborate with fire management agencies prior to, during, and after the fire incidence. This collaboration helps in coordinating different resources for the betterment of the disaster management process. Every stakeholder should be ethically concerned in the disaster management process to ensure the saving of lives. Nurses play a significant role in disaster management, and they are always at the forefront in ensuring that no life that can be saved is lost. I have learned that disaster management is a cycle. The contingency plan involves risk assessment of all the possible fire causes and mitigating them or having a plan to contain the fire if it happens. The rescue team should coordinate response and recovery strategies to avoid concussions, and a chain of command should be defined in the contingency plan. I have leant that communication in the fire disaster management process is vital to ensure the flow of information throughout the process (Sawalha, 2020).
In conclusion, disaster management is a viral process because it involves preserving lives and property that could be affected by a happening disaster. Fire disaster has involved the burning of combustible materials that are fuelled by oxygen. All fires start small, and if contained, the damage may be controlled. However, when they are not controlled, the damage and quick and extensive and some of them may take days to contain. Fire disasters cause physical, psychological and social impacts to all the people affected, such as the victims, vulnerable groups and the rescuers. The effect of a fire disaster may be long-term, and the victims need to be assisted with all possible means. Various post-disaster recovery concerns need to be addressed at all steps of the recovery process, which involve the victims and the recovery process, such as ensuring maximum support for the victims. The nurses play a significant role in the disaster recovery process. They are involved in the pre-impact planning, such as formulating disaster management policies, impact, where they are involved in the response process such as offering health services and ensuring safe victims evacuation. They are also involved in the post-impact where they care for the victims at the hospitals, evaluate for significant long-term physical injury, and offer mental health support to the fire victims and the community.
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