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.