Chapter 4
Case Studies:
Disasters from Natural
Johnstown Flood, Pennsylvania, 1889
Stage 1 of the Disaster
You are the mayor of a town of 30,000 people. Your town mainly consists of blue-
collar steel workers that are of German descent. Unfortunately, your town has been
built on a floodplain where two rivers meet and the riverbanks have been narrowed
to give the town more land to construct residential housing and other buildings.
is leads to some minor flooding from time to time. In addition, the South Fork
Dam located upstream needs maintenance badly, but is not being maintained by the
local hunting and fishing lodge that is responsible for its upkeep (U.S. Department
of the Interior, 2007a).
1. What is your plan of action? As the leader of the community, you should
encourage precautionary measures on the issue of flooding because it is a
recurring problem and can be a potentially bigger problem in the future.
e mayor should undertake a study that will review the planning and
zoning ordinances of the town and direct the town council to take action
on restricting certain development along the river. An emergency plan of
action and evacuation plan should be developed for the citizens of the town
as well as identifying resources that may be needed in case of an emergency.
60 ◾  Case Studies in Disaster Response and Emergency Management
Additionally, the South Fork Dam should get the proper maintenance and
evaluation to ensure that the town is fully protected from any type of cata-
strophic dam failure.
2. What is your communication plan? e mayor’s communication plan should
include the town council members and make them aware of the potentially
dangerous situations that can occur if certain issues are not dealt with appro-
priately. Additionally, the mayor should begin to develop support for better
planning and building ordinances with the towns staff as well as the housing
developers. e mayor should be in contact with the party responsible for
maintenance of the South Fork Dam as well as the town’s first responders.
e community at large should be made aware of any emergency or evacu-
ation plans that currently exist. Resources need to be put in place to ensure
that the mayor can communicate with the town residents in times of crisis.
3. What resources do you need to acquire for the problems that have occurred or that
could occur? One of the bigger problems that the mayor will face is getting the
resources to fix the South Fork Dam. e general population currently does
not feel any sense of urgency in making repairs or even maintaining the dam.
4. What government entities do you need to interface with to accomplish your plan
of action? As stated earlier, the mayor needs to interface successfully with the
town council. Communications with the town council are imperative for getting
the resources needed to repair the dam, as well as for passing any type of build-
ing or zoning ordinances concerning the development that is continuing along
the river. e mayor will also need to communicate with the town’s top adminis-
trator to get staff support for developing an emergency or evacuation plan.
Stage 2 of the Disaster
On May 31, at 4:07 p.m., the South Fork Dam collapses after a heavy rain fall. e
collapse sends 20 tons of water that is 60 feet high hurtling toward your town at
40 miles per hour (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2007a).
1. What is your plan of action? You must communicate to your staff that the
town needs to have all available first responders evacuate the town, starting
with the residences nearest to the river. Other than attempt to evacuate the
town, there is very little you can do at this point since the flood is quickly
coming toward the town. Your time to act and your options to take different
approaches to blunt the impact of the flood are extremely limited at this junc-
ture. Evacuating the town is the best plan of action to take with the factors
that are at work in this disaster.
2. What is your communication plan? e mayor needs to enact an evacuation
of the town. To do this, the mayor must get word to the residents by any
means possible that they should evacuate to higher ground. You have no
modern communications, so you will need to rely on couriers on foot with

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