In 2021, emergency planning is more complicated than ever due to an increase in the frequency and types of events, including concurrent incidents, spanning natural disasters, public health emergencies, and man-made events. As emergencies occur more often, it is crucial that emergency preparedness and response officials plan effective response, mitigation, and recovery operations, in anticipation of concurrent or sequential events.
National Increase in Large and Concurrent Disasters
Throughout summer of 2021, increasing levels of natural disasters have further stressed response capacities both locally and statewide in combination with healthcare and public health COVID responses.
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group elevated the National Preparedness Level to the highest level 5 (on a scale of 1 to 5) due to significant fire activity in multiple geographic areas. This classification additionally highlights that with responses to fire activity throughout a dozen states, there is an increase in incident management team mobilization and a heavy shared resources commitment nationally. The National Interagency Fire Center published a 2021 situation report listing a total of 38,707 wildfires across the country has burnt almost 3.4 million acres.
In the Southwest, multiple states were affected by heavy rain and flash flooding in July, with local states of emergency declared in Southern Utah and Nevada after more than two inches of rain fell in an hour. In Utah, the amount of rain in such a small amount of time classified the storm as an estimated 500-year frequency flooding event in some areas. The high rain fall overwhelmed flood control structures and officials coordinating the disaster response set up shelters as public infrastructure, residential homes, apartments, businesses and other structures were left un-inhabitable.
These are only a few examples of recent natural disasters amid what is predicted to be highly active hurricane and wildfire seasons. FEMA recently released the National Risk Index which aims to identify communities most at risk to 18 natural hazards and assist communities in updating emergency planning and operations, prioritizing and allocating resources, and encouraging education of community-level risk communication and engagement. The National Risk Index allows for preparation and emergency planning for events in local and regional activities, in coordination with operational response plans.
The Importance of Pre-Planning as Disasters Increase
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) highlights that pre-planning efforts can help communities be more resilient, with an improved ability to respond to and recover from disasters.
In a recent FEMA report, David Weaver, the former County Commissioner in Douglas County, Colorado, noted that “having been through our own wildfires, floods, and other local emergencies, as well as having witnessed other counties navigate their own disasters, our staff had the foresight to recognize the importance of collaboration among our partners to assemble a recovery plan. By focusing on what could occur instead of what is or already has happened, places Douglas County in the best possible shape to react to any potential disaster, be it man-made or natural.”
The increase in natural disasters, coupled with the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, present a new set of challenges for emergency management agencies and administrators to coordinate disaster response and recovery. While not every disaster response can be planned, state, local, and federal governments should take every opportunity to drill potential events, identify needed resources, and create disaster recovery and resilience plans of action that can be easily adopted if a scenario becomes an active emergency.
Planning Ahead With PULSE Enterprise: New Features Help Emergency Administrators Better Prepare Care Coordination
As part of state and local planning, emergency management officials should ensure that emergency planning consists of a strategy to deliver healthcare outside of traditional care environments, including access to interoperable health records with clinical and medication history to better coordinate care for displaced people.
In July 2021, Audacious Inquiry introduced new PULSE Enterprise features for emergency planning and events management, including enabling administrators to pre-plan in the system for emergencies and better manage patient flow in alternate care facilities during emergencies.
The following represent PULSE Enterprise’s latest emergency events management features for emergency planning administrators and response teams:
- Response teams can simultaneously deploy multiple active event responses within the same system, all managed independently of each other so that each response can be handled specific to that emergency’s needs
- By pre-selecting settings in the system that will be used in an emergency before it occurs, administrators can now better plan for emergencies in alignment with existing response plans and organization structures.
- Administrators can easily turn on and off access to the system for all responders involved in specific emergency response efforts across multiple responding organizations and locations.
- Just-in-time event set up can also be completed, independent of any other planned or unplanned event in the system.
- Shelter managers now have increased visibility into shelter rosters within the product and a more holistic view of activity within their alternate care facilities.
“As part of an agency’s planning for disaster season, being able to pre-populate settings for an anticipated response frees up time in the moment for addressing the response needs,” says Lauren Knieser, Senior Director for Emergency Preparedness and Response at Audacious Inquiry. “Agencies will have reassurance that systems are set up to meet critical needs, and with added flexibility to react as situations change.”
PULSE Enterprise is available in any domestic geographic region for emergency management administrators to enable emergency healthcare professionals and first responders to better care for displaced individuals outside their normal care environment. In addition to supporting long-term planning and response for disasters and emergencies, Audacious can quickly deploy PULSE Enterprise in coordination with our support services to best meet the needs of tribal, state, or community emergency responses.
About the Author
Eliana Donner-Klein is Senior Associate for Marketing at Audacious Inquiry, a national industry-shaping health IT company that developed the single most impactful platform for aligning better care across the healthcare continuum. At Audacious, she works to support marketing and business development strategy through market research, case study and content creation, and product marketing. Eliana has been a patient advocate since 2015, working to raise awareness about living with chronic migraine and other invisible illnesses through writing, speaking engagements, consulting, and political advocacy.
Donner-Klein previously worked as an Associate at Sirona Strategies where she focused on a variety of health policy issues including Medicare and Medicaid, value-based care, health information technology and interoperability, telehealth, and the social determinants of health. In addition to her policy and regulatory work, she worked as the communications manager to redesign and run coalition websites, strategic communications campaigns, and thought leadership through events and newsletters.