Hurricanes and Natural Disasters: A Call to Action for FCS

Article excerpt

Recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina revived a deeply held belief by a mentor of many years ago who said, "If we did not have the profession of family and consumer sciences, we would have to invent it immediately." Family and consumer sciences (FCS) professionals have been prepared in a profession that values and celebrates individuals and families. The mission and central focus of FCS are to improve the quality of life by empowering individuals, strengthening families, and enabling communities. This must be done at all times and in all situations such as those posed by natural disasters.

The world watched in disbelief at the unprecedented magnitude of devastation from Katrina as they witnessed families and children in extreme crises without the basics of life (food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies, personal items), and most importantly, without knowledge about their missing family members, and without the ability to bury their dead. FCS professionals must be at the forefront of leadership during these periods of natural disasters. The knowledge base of the profession is critical to the rebirth of New Orleans and other devastated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Inherent in the theme of this issue, Leadership for Improving the Human Condition, is the recognition that the uniqueness of the FCS profession is its integrative approach to addressing persistent societal issues that require commitment and expertise from many disciplines. The greatest commitment to improving the human condition is to be prepared to help stabilize the family unit. During recent disasters, stabilization of families seemed to be less important as family members were sent to shelters in several states. Even with the world's latest technology, many family members had to search for each other for quite some time. Media intervention helped; however, it is unclear what happened to those individuals or families who did not have media access.

As the first unit of society, the family remains the most central stabilizing institution, and it influences the viability of other institutions. Individuals internalize fundamental core values and beliefs from the family regardless of the construct; therefore, the well-being of the family is influenced by its ability to positively access and use goods and services to enhance personal, social, economic, educational, physical, psychological, technical, and spiritual realities in their internal and external environments. The foundation of this profession is the integration of various areas of specialization. FCS professionals apply their discipline-specific knowledge to help improve the overall well-being of individuals, families, and communities (Adams, 2001).

The persistent societal issues of obesity, financial security, affordable housing, healthcare, and quality education have been compounded exponentially by greater and more critical survival needs that determine life and death. The urgency of the profession is one of responding to societal needs within a family framework. The integrative approach that brings together the knowledge base of the profession also should be used to bring together professionals of supporting disciplines and organizations to enhance the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities.

What role does FCS play in helping to improve the human condition, particularly at the individual and family unit? The role inextricably is found in the mission of the profession-to serve as a positive force for the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Caples (personal communication, October, 2005) observed that:

Under normal circumstances, each day, families are faced with and must make a variety of decisions designed to improve, sustain, or enhance their daily lives. These decisions impact the most basic of needs such as food and shelter, and others are designed to address self-esteem, belonging, and self actualization. …