Module 8 – Happening Hazards – Bernstein

Hometown: Bernville, Pennsylvania

Disaster Reporting On: Wildfire in Cherokee National Park (northeast Tennessee)

  • EDIS NUMBER: WF-20160401-52740-USA
  • DATE OF OCCURRENCE: April 1, 2016 (~3:17 AM UTC)
  • Believed to have been human-caused

1). In my hometown (Bernville, PA), we are prone to wind and rain. Given the choice, I would use another map for Natural Hazard information. The results shown by Nathan’s World Map were too blurry to make distinct (especially as one zoomed in further and further), and so I am afraid that I had to almost guesstimate on many of the hazards. I am thankful that I do not live in such disaster-prone areas as some others do, but also remember that it is still in the realm of possibility; we have had the local man-made lake flood over on several occasions (we have since gotten better at preventing that) and there has been heavy winds and damages before.

2). My hometown itself cannot experience such a disaster, but the area around it could. My hometown doesn’t actually have a lot of wooded areas to catch fire –  mainly apartment buildings and homes – but it is surrounded by wooded areas out towards the farm areas. This is not to say that fires do not happen here though – they do, they’re just not “forest fires”. The scale of the event is not larger than the size of my hometown, but would take a sizable portion of it away. The fire I chose to study spread (as of this writing) to 150 acres; Bernville is only 272 acres – that’s over half of Bernville destroyed if the disaster were to happen there as opposed to where it did (the Cherokee National Forest). Since the forest is obviously much bigger (650,000 acres)  than my modest hometown, the proportion of damage done is significantly smaller, thereby making a bigger impact on my town. Wealth would be the biggest factor of vulnerability in my town; coming from a small more “rural” town, most of the residents are in the lower economic classes. As a result, these people would not be able to afford rebuilding their homes after the fire. Age could be considered tied for first with “Wealth” as a vulnerability factor as there are a lot of aged and children. My hometown is very unfortunate in this as we have a lot of elderly residents (looking for quiet areas to live) and the local elementary school not 15 minutes walk from my home. Reducing the vulnerability (and/or getting rid of it completely) is not something that could be easily done; asking the elderly to move or moving the children to the other school district some distance away could prove futile and anger many, but we have a good response team – there are at least 3 fire companies within a 10 mile distance from my hometown making for a good response in disaster.

3). Beside my personal experience (raised here from infancy) and the experience of others – namely older residents, I managed to dig up a Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Plan of my home county. The assessment and plan are rather old but still manage to hold up well when comparing to today’s (and recent past) events. Reviewing the assessment, I realize that wind has not been as big of a hazard as I previously had thought; it definitely causes damage (as there is a documented case), but apparently the main sources of strife have been heavy snow (for convenience I will loop that in with flooding/rain, or “precipitation”) and drought. Keeping along with what Nathan’s Hazard Map said, there are cases of fires (2001, 2007, 2008, and 2009) listed that were large enough to cause economic damage as well as physical.

Berks County Emergency Services.  (2013, February). Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Plan Update. Retrieved April 1, 2016, from

4). As mentioned previously, Bernville has had flooding before, but we have gotten much better at prevention measures. Blue Marsh, a manmade levee – was made in order to help catch the flood waters to prevent it from flooding the neighboring city of Reading. We also have dams in place in order to control the flow of the water (at least to some degree) allowing more relief in times of flood AND drought. The Army Corps of Engineering is actually the organization/people that would best be suited to deal with matters relating to Blue Marsh, as they were the ones who designed and built it in the first place. Becoming aware, buying flood insurance, and obeying orders when flooded are all different ways I can help (in this example at least); becoming aware of the natural hazards one is likely to be subjected to can better prepare one to face them.