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Natural Disaster Rescue Teams at Public Health Facilities Across the Country Learn from Katrina Failures



RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the event of another major natural disaster like Katrina or Rita hitting the U.S., a repeat of 2005's medical catastrophes and loss of life is very unlikely, according to a new multi-state survey by Global Secure, a leading provider of emergency preparedness and response systems to federal, state and local governments.

Seventy-seven percent of the state public health departments in disaster- prone regions across the country questioned for the survey said they were "significantly" or "somewhat better" prepared to meet such emergencies.

The most important initiatives taken by a large majority of the respondents involved sweeping improvements in communications, collaboration, and coordination between all intra and interstate rescue agencies. A failure in these efforts two years ago was one of the biggest obstacles to dealing rapidly and effectively with Hurricane Katrina, whether providing medical support, handling evacuees, or allocating resources and time. "We are significantly better prepared because of the redundant communication capabilities we now have in place," said LaJean Volmer of the South Dakota Department of Health.

Of equal importance, the survey found, was the need for collaborative planning in advance. Seventy-six percent of the respondents agreed that one of the most valuable lessons learned through direct experience, and through watching the New Orleans crisis unfold, was the over-riding importance of advance planning.

"What really is key is understanding that planning in isolation does not produce a quality product," said Cindy Gleason of the Washington State Department of Health Office of Risk and Emergency Management. "Planning with other agencies puts you in a better readiness state, rather than just an awareness state," she said.

Those preparations must involve cooperation among hospitals, nursing homes, and all other healthcare facilities, as well as the coordination of food and water supplies and the assignment of trained volunteers. Nearly 60 percent of the state health departments surveyed said that they were now implementing regular exercises and drills that were "critical" for their first responders. Also cited often was the need for strong leadership from a supportive overall director and management team.

Mr. Craig Bandes, Chief Executive Officer of Global Secure, which commissioned the survey, noted that, "The site of a disaster is not the place for responders to be exchanging business cards. These relationships must be established and tested long before the event. Our survey indicates that progress has been made, and that pre-crisis communication and preparation at the state and local levels has improved dramatically across the country."

One of the state health department heads who responded to the survey said he was now conducting multi-agency exercises that included the rapid setting up of so-called all-purpose "medical needs facilities." Another noted that prior to these exercises, multiple agencies, acting independently, wasted valuable time and money duplicating efforts. He noted that in a number of instances, for example, various responders had all counted on the same buses for evacuations.

A third official emphasized the necessity of hospitals participating in these preparatory exercises and suggested that, in future, some non- traditional players, such as a finance team to determine funding requirements, also be included.


Global Secure Corp. provides a broad range of essential crisis preparedness and response software and services to federal, state and local public health, public safety and critical incident response agencies. The firm's proprietary Response Manager System provides an online collaboration and multi-media alerting platform for preparing and responding to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and major public health emergencies such as a pandemic flu epidemic. Other offerings include products utilized for managing emergency volunteers and hospital surge capacity, as well as the training and exercises required for an effective response.

Contact: Bill Armstrong

Phone: 212 922 0900

SOURCE Global Secure
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