Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Conclusion

In conclusion I learned a lot more about Hurricane Irma than I knew just from following the daily news when it was occurring. Looking back I feel as if the articles and information being released about Irma that gained a lot of traction were typically numbers such as how many deaths or the amount of monetary damage created by the storm. Those same articles I think drew even more comparison to other hurricanes such as Katrina than articles I read for my individual study. For my individual study I really wanted to look at these individual groups and see how the media portrayed them and how much this portrayal continued after the storm. For some groups such as pet owners I was shockingly surprised to see how little information was available about families evacuating with their animals and how that went over in emergency shelters. The only information I could really find was about their abandonment and subsequent adoption. For this specific group I think the media attention brought needed awareness to a cause but failed to highlight issues that could arise within emergency shelters which was more of what I was interested in learning about since I feel that dynamic is under reported.
For the homeless and elderly groups I found the information relating to them to be very much about bringing up issues but not having an actual resolution. Claims were made for both groups of being treated unfairly or blame put on there care givers but those subgroups then say the blame then falls back on the government due to how they were regulating things such as evacuation plans and how to designate different groups. Overall I think the research I did into families had the most articles wrote about it and tended to offer up feel good news. While the other 3 groups I looked at focused on the abuses they suffered the articles on family mentioned these issues while still showing a happy ending and leaving the reader with hope for others.
I think media coverage helps more than hinders during disasters such as these by bringing awareness to different causes and showing people ways they can help such as by opening up their homes to evacuees or adopting an animal abandoned during the storm. Sadly, I feel like the media does not give the updates that they should and it became difficult to find a lot of information beyond September and it seemed as if few people were still following this story. While I understand the reasoning behind not lingering too long on one topic I think topics such as natural disasters warrant more updates since the issues they left behind will be experienced by many for years and the media can do better in helping the public to remember before we make the same mistakes again.

Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Families

Probably the most common of those impacted by Hurricane Irma is families. This group can encompass all of the previous groups I have already discussed with their being homeless families, families with elderly grandparents, and families with pets. This is compounded by the fact that families could be dealing with having to evacuate with multiple small children, children with special needs, and all of the groups mentioned above. While travelling in groups can be safer due to everyone working together I can also see the ability for more issues to arise if there are only 2 parents to be responsible for the care of multiple small children, animals, and grandparents. There is also a possibility of separation from your family that can bring additional hardship during these already difficult times.
During my research I found the articles about families to be the most relatable to me and as if they were written differently than articles about the previous groups I have discussed. I also found more mention of disabilities in the articles about families and the difficulties of evacuating when you have small children with illnesses. One article told the story of Latoria McKelvey and her son Evan who has cerebral palsy. She explains how her son can only eat through a feeding tube and need breathing treatments multiple times daily. While at first she was panicked due to being unsure of how she could care for her son during the hurricane she soon was relieved to find that a nearby school was being setup as a center for those with special needs in order to get that part of the population the care they needed (Hassanein, 2017). I think this article did a good job of showing the real life emotional and physical struggles of these storms and is relatable even to those who may not have disabled children because it can still inspire reflection of “what would I do if that was me?” I think these articles really bring to life the seriousness of hurricanes and tend to make people more sympathetic by opening up their minds to helping the cause.
Other mentions of families are the feel good stories put out by many news sites. One example of this was the story of Eugene Connor and Michelle Cox and their 5 year old daughter Cynthia who were located in the US Virgin Islands during Hurricane Irma and were dealing with the flooding of their house when they received a phone call from an unknown number from a man claiming to know their landlords and be able to help. The man, John Parr, drove through the storm with heavy rainy and winds so strong they blew over trees in order to help the family evacuate. While the family was thankful for the help they now have to deal with the issue of rebuilding their lives while also having troubles obtaining basic needs such as food and water in this destroyed areas (WTVR 1, 2017).
Continuing on the concept of a feel good article there are also people who have had experiences with other natural disasters such as hurricanes and remember what it was like for them during that time. They have sympathy for others struggling with these issues and take it upon themselves to try and mitigate those problems. I found this in the form of an article where they interviewed multiple people who were housing displaced families due to Hurricane Irma. Some of them used a Facebook group called “Hurricane Irma Lodging for Evacuees” in order to advertise their homes to those in need. Many of those in the article discuss how they lived through disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or they were veterans of the Gulf War and could relate to that want for survival (WTVR 2, 2017). The article also discusses how people would open up their homes to not just the families but also their animals. This article was originally posted September 7th, 2017 during the storm so it could have been used as a tool by other evacuees to see the options available to them and bring awareness to those who were able to house evacuees of a way that they could.

Hassanein, N. (2017, September 10). Fleeing Hurricane Irma: A special needs family, and a survivor of Katrina and Harvey. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from

Stranger risks life to rescue family during Hurricane Irma: ‘We would’ve been dead’. (2017, September 16). Retrieved December 4, 2017, from

People across country open their doors to Hurricane Irma evacuees. (2017, September 07). Retrieved December 4, 2017, from

Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Pets and Pet Owners

Pet owners during natural disasters such as hurricanes I find to be some of the most controversial of topics and typically have a decent amount of coverage ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2004 in which many people chose to stay behind for reasons such as the inability to take their pets to emergency shelters with them. I myself own a Shetland sheepdog and would find it incredibly difficult to leave him behind to suffer and possibly die to a hurricane while I myself escaped. While many people feel the same way I do and could not imagine leaving a pet behind to save themselves and would try to find different accommodations, others may not have the ability to take their pets with them or may not care enough to try. As with my 2 previous entries on the homeless and elderly, people sometimes must be reliant upon others to help them, and difficult decisions will have to be made in order to keep them safe, but this time it may not be humans that need saving instead it is your pet. In my personal experience I have heard multiple points of view what to do with your animals, specifically dogs, during a disaster. These range from “leave them behind, save resources for real people not animals” to “I can’t leave them behind they’re a part of my family.”
Due to this conflict I often see especially in posts and comments by everyday people on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, I was genuinely shocked to find very few articles discussing pet owners and the issues they face during the storm. Many of the articles I did find were related more to the abandonment of dogs and what happens with them afterwards. Specifically in Tampa Bay, Florida the SPCA took in more than 80 dogs, cats, and other animals during the time surrounding the hurricane while also evacuating over 50 animals in their facilities to other facilities in order to accommodate the surge in animals (Allred, 2017).
While many animals were abandoned at shelters, others were abandoned in their own yards tie to trees and unable to escape the flooding. Authorities claimed to possibly be pursuing felony charges against those in Florida who left their dogs chained up and abandoned (Rossman, 2017). After I read this article I could find no other mention of charges being brought up that were not from initial articles written in September so I could not find if anyone was ever charged. While no one may have been charged for leaving their animals behind, some animals rescued during Hurricane Irma have a chance in a new loving home. Most of the articles written about pets revolve around agencies in which you can adopt and animal that was abandoned during Irma. These animals are being transported as far away as Massachusetts to animal shelters to in hope be given to loving homes. This includes 30 dogs and 70 cats (Hager, 2017). While this specific article is from September I have seen articles through November talking about adoption so the media may not be covering the story of animals fully but they are using their ability to reach wide audiences in order to have these animals adopted.
Allred, A. (2017, September 15). SPCA reunites animals with pet owners after Hurricane Irma. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from
SPCA reunites animals with pet owners after Hurricane Irma
Rossman, S. (2017, September 11). Dozens of dogs abandoned, left unable to escape as Irma bears down. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from
Hager, C. (2017, September 14). Pets Displaced By Hurricane Irma Ready For New Homes In Massachusetts. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from
Pets Displaced By Hurricane Irma Ready For New Homes In Massachusetts

Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Elderly

The elderly have long been a prominent talking point when discussing those living through natural disasters such as hurricanes and Hurricane Irma is no exception. As the elderly often need assistance to do daily tasks, they have physical ailments, and they can be more susceptible to sickness and the heat it is no wonder that often times the elderly often reported to have died during hurricanes. I vividly remember Hurricane Katrina and the devastation the storm left while most victims to the storm being the elderly who are unable to evacuate on their own. Due to not being able to evacuate themselves their safety is very much in the hands of their caretakers but do they also make the right decisions? If the time comes and they realize they chose wrong, is it too late?
During Hurricane Irma the elderly continued to be one of the most covered topics due to previous hurricanes and the catastrophe that resulted from them. Florida was the location to take the brunt of Hurricane Irma is made worse due to the fact that 1 in 5 people in Florida are aged 65 or older. Due to this it adds more pressure to relief efforts such as in regards to health care since the elderly are more likely to need assistance and with such as high population it could create a strain on the system (Santora, 2017). Hurricane Irma sadly was the end for some of the elderly of Florida Hurricane Irma produced flooding and led to power outages that lasted for days. For groups such as the elderly that may be in nursing homes and need 24/7 care or are sickly are reliant upon having those amenities such as electricity and when they lose them things can take a turn for the worse. With storms like Irma places such as nursing homes may be told their structure is good enough they don’t have to evacuate all of their patients but sometimes they realize too late they are not as safe as they thought.
This can be seen within a nursing home in Naples, Florida after Hurricane Irma. 8 patients died under their care after they lost electricity. The nursing home claims they made multiple 911 calls for help, attempted to fix their electricity, and followed and emergency plan. Regardless, their license was revoked by the AHCA due to failure to keep their patients safe (Sarkissian, 2017). Articles such as these bring to light the issues that those who are responsible for others wellbeing must face. In this instance it is hard to know without further investigation if fault lies within jus the nursing home for being reckless or on the state who was not able to provide that relief in a timely enough manner to safe lives. By these being discussed in the media I believe it allows the reader to see multiple points of view and realize the issues experienced during these disasters do not always have an easy path to follow while people also try to make sure it never happens again.
Months after Hurricane Irma hit, issues being dealt with by the elderly are still mentioned in the media. State and federal officials have created a program to give food stamps to the elderly and disabled who do not typically qualify for these services. While it is good in that these services are available the article argues that in order to receive these food stamps the elderly and disabled would have to stand in lines that are hours long (Swisher, 2017). I find this article to be a good example of the media where you have to portray both sides and neither is completely wrong or right but it opens up discussion on how situations as these can be resolved in the future and make the process as efficient as possible.
Sarkissian, A. (2017, September 20). Irma nursing home deaths: Owner rips Florida move to stop Medicaid, ban patients. Retrieved December 2, 2017, from
Santora, M., & Fountain, H. (2017, September 08). Long a Refuge for the Elderly, Florida Is Now a Place of Danger. Retrieved December 2, 2017, from

Swisher, S. (2017, November 05). State officials seeking alternatives for elderly, disabled needing Hurricane Irma food stamps. Retrieved December 02, 2017, from

Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Homeless

The homeless are a part of our society that I feel many wish to push to the side and pretend as if they don’t exist. It is during natural disasters, such as Hurricane Irma and subsequent hurricanes, that we are met with ethical questions such as what level of interference we have on those that are reliant upon public spaces and services such as homeless shelters and what control we have over their actions in these spaces. Clearly staying in your car or on the streets during a hurricane is not a safe option due to flooding and moving debris. This is made even more dangerous when it is not just grown adults but young children who may not be able to swim or if they can they will probably not be able to withstand such strong currents. If you have a private residence and choose to stay there during a storm it is unlikely public officials would know and make you leave. But if you are on the streets or in your car it is much more apparent and those public officials such as police officers need to decide what duty they have to these people.
The best example of homeless people portrayed in the media during Hurricane Irma was related to many homeless being detained by police officers against their will. This took place in Miami, Florida and is legally allowed under Florida’s Mental Health Act of 1971 as described in an article by the Huffington Post that allows for, “ police and government officials to involuntarily detain individuals who may have a mental illness or could pose a significant threat to themselves or others. The law requires “clear and convincing evidence” that individuals detained under it are in danger,” (Waldron, 2017). The article also describes how they are allowed to be detained for up to 72 hours but any time beyond that must be court ordered. This law was used to detain 6 homeless people and get them off of the streets prior to the hurricane hitting. Before anyone was actually detained, police and non profit groups scoured the city going to known homeless locations in an effort to get the more than 1,100 homeless off the streets and into designated storm shelters. Ultimately these groups brought more than 500 people in while leaving the other 600 unaccounted for due to time restraints and the hurricane quickly approaching though it is likely they found some kind of shelter themselves (Waldron, 2017).
While the previous instance and the article about it paint officials in a good light and show them trying to help the community, officials in other parts of Florida did not deal with the situation in the same way. In other parts of Florida such as in St. Augustine the media has brought to light ways in which the homeless were treated unfairly during Hurricane Irma. While in the previous article the officers did what they did in order to save lives here it is not to clean cut. Here it is claimed that when a homeless woman named Shelby Hoogendyk went with her husband and 17-month-old child to a hurricane shelter they were forced to wear yellow wrists bands indicating they were homeless while also being separated from those that were not homeless. The article paints a much different picture of homeless in Florida during Hurricane Irma and describes how many homeless “were turned away, segregated from the others, denied cots and food, deprived of medication refills and doctors’ visits, or otherwise ill-treated during the evacuation” (Dearen, 2017). The claims were refuted by the county sheriff who stated there was no discrimination and yellow bands were used to differentiate between those with special needs and those without though Hoogendyk and other homeless say that they never claimed to have special needs.
While both of these articles were written in September near the time of Hurricane Irma I looked to see if the media was still covering issues faced by homeless due to Hurricane Irma. I found uplifting news about the creation of tiny houses to be used in order to help with the homeless after Hurricane Irma. The idea for these houses originally came after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and they are being marketed as a cheaper option than trailers to FEMA (Wadlow, 2017). While the article may not go into specific details about the life of homeless after the hurricane you can see that the media is still following the story and showing possible solutions to a problem while also allowing for peoples voices, such as Hoogendyk, to be heard.

Kennedy, J. D. (2017, September 29). Yellow wristbands, segregation for Florida homeless in Irma. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from

Waldron, T., & Murdock, S. (2017, September 13). Ahead Of Hurricane Irma, Miami Detained Homeless People Against Their Will. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from

Wadlow, K. (2017, October 22). Could these tiny houses -and we mean tiny – house the hurricane homeless? Retrieved December 01, 2017, from

Natural Disasters of the Digital Age: Introduction

For my individual study I will be looking at the recent natural disaster, Hurricane Irma and the subsequent hurricanes Jose, Katia, and Maria. When analyzing these events I will be looking specifically at two factors: how the storm is portrayed in the media over time and how people living through the storms are themselves portrayed in the media and how living through a natural disaster in the digital age plays out amongst different subgroups. My specific focus will be on how the hurricanes impacted the United States with some mention of other areas hit. The subgroups I will be analyzing are: children and their parents, the homeless, pet owners, parents of small children, and the elderly. I picked these groups because I think they are common groups to be portrayed in the media during natural disasters and there will be a lot of information regarding them.
For the main part of my individual study I will be researching the different subgroups listed above and their relation with the media. For the entries I will do research into each of these subgroups and collect data on them then analyze it. I want to look specifically at how each group is portrayed by the media during this storm, how the portrayal continues after the storm is over, and looking at previous storms for more context. Once I have analyzed the information I will write about 3 to 5 paragraphs on each group during this storm. For each entry I will use at least 3 sources to guarantee a variety of portrayal.
At the end of my individual study I will write a brief reflection of 3 to 5 paragraphs discussing what I have learned from my research. I hypothesize that the most sources will be from the days during and immediately after the disaster with few follow-ups months later. I think this is an important topic to look into because media has become such a large part of our lives and I think it has created a population that is very much about quick information and what is ‘cool’ at the time then forgetting about those same issues later. I think it is very easy to care about what happens to someone immediately after a tragic event, such as hurricane, but I think it is difficult for many people to continuously care for months afterwards and help. I think looking into how different groups of people are treated and portrayed in the media after these disasters lends a more personal feel to the paper