Written by Elvina Safukova
The Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic recently experienced a “derecho” event, which according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a “widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms”. The storms that brought lighting, heavy rain, and hurricane force winds originated in northern Indiana and affected portions of Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, much of Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The result was millions of dollars in damage, a wide-spread multi-day power outage that at one point affected more than 2 million people, a state of emergency being declared in West Virginia and 26 deaths. In the Washington D.C. area alone it was reported that five people died due to falling trees. A week after the disaster, tens of thousands are still without power with the temperature rising into the 100s.
We at MicroHealth were blessed with none of our employees or their family hurt and many having power restored by Sunday. Surprisingly, our main office continued to have power through the
widespread outage. Many of us in the company come with a Military background and therefore, we have experience in disaster preparedness. Honestly, this storm caught us all by surprise. We were particularly concerned with the heat wave at the time of wide-spread power outages and the challenges with availability of public places with basic facilities. We wanted to inform our employees that MicroHealth Headquarters in Vienna was operational with cooling, water, power, toilets and shower during the disaster for MicroHealthers and their family. However, with the power outage being so wide spread, we found challenges in initiating our call roster to inform employees of conditions, check on their welfare and inform them of operations. On Sunday we were fortunate to learn that everyone had their power and normal communication channels restored.
Recognizing some vulnerability in our emergency preparedness program, MicroHealth has initiated a project, led by our Office Manager, to improve our preparedness based on FEMA’s Facilitator guide and 123-point Red Cross Ready Rating. We are also investigating ways to simplify notifications from multiple sources to include USGS andNOAA, among others. The current prototype of a Medical Threat Intelligence Dashboard was built using public geographically tagged feeds (GeoRSS) in an application called RSSMapper. The demo can be seen here http://bit.ly/MOGIcg.
Ideally we believe this type of information is better suited for a mobile device and we will be exploring development of that product which will be used internally and released free to the public. The result of these efforts will be a comprehensive preparedness program including a notification system of alerts, watches, warnings and advisories for both the workplace and at home with the goal of better overall emergency preparedness. The project will include working closely with county officials to capitalize on local best practices and resources. Why is this so important to MicroHealth and your organization? People are our most important asset!
- 15 – 40 percent of businesses fail following a natural or manmade disaster.1
- 94 percent of small business owners believe a disaster could seriously disrupt their business within the next two years.2
- 51 percent of Americans have experienced at least one emergency situation where they lost utilities for at least three days, had to evacuate and could not return home, could not communicate with family members or had to provide first aid to others.3
Sources: 1 Insurance Information Institute, 2000, 2 American Red Cross and FedEx Small Business Survey, 2007,3 American Red Cross/Harris Poll Survey, 2009.