Challenges of responding to multiple disasters

Challenges of responding to multiple disasters

September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017 - In the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, communities in the Southeast United States, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands are facing a months-long response and recovery while millions of families remain without basic necessities, such as food, drinkable water, shelter, and power. As the storms move on and recovery begins, emergency responders face the complex task of triaging the dual impact of Irma and Maria.


This challenge is truly multi-dimensional – communities must simultaneously continue to prepare for future crises, respond to real-time needs of communities impacted by Irma and Maria, and re-establish critical infrastructure and other essential services. This last facet cannot be understated. With Irma and Maria, communities are not just restoring infrastructure, as most emergency and business continuity plans include guidance on. They’re rebuilding it, in many cases.


The demands on emergency management and their partners are compounded when facing multiple natural disasters, as we are now. There is the need to educate and prepare victims on how to stay safe and healthy. There is the need to address the devastating impacts on infrastructure, whether its destroyed roads, grocery stores, hospitals, or electricity plants. There is a need to protect over-burdened, over-tired responders without compromising the response. Most of all, there is the need to address “human factors” that demand empathy and locally-focused interventions – such as families being separated, children suffering from shock, and communities losing their houses, schools, churches, and other places that feel like “home” for thousands of people.


We’ve witnessed and facilitated public and private partners coming together to amplify each other’s capabilities dozens of times in the last few weeks - partners like CVS and Americares working together to make sure patients in shelters have the medicines they need, and private and NGO partners eagerly offering resources or FEMA’s NBEOC dashboard.


Multiple disasters highlight more than ever why coordinated, locally-focused public-private response and relief efforts are crucial. State and local governments have access to real-time, accurate needs assessments, while private sector entities have a wide range of resources and funds to meet those needs and take meaningful steps to help communities and families affected.


As we expand our activation to include Maria recovery efforts, Healthcare Ready stands equipped to work with public and private partners in each of the hurricane-stricken areas.

Sarah Baker, MPP

Sarah Baker is the Programs Manager at Healthcare Ready. In this capacity, she provides a wide range of policy research, writing, and analytical support to the organization's preparedness initiatives.

Prior to joining Healthcare Ready, Sarah served as a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security and a variety of private sector organizations, during which time she supported the design, conduct, and evaluation of scores of preparedness exercises.

Sarah recently received her Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy and holds a B.A. degree from the University of Notre Dame.