Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.

Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS). 

The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.

The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.

The High Alert Institute has partnered with Shutterstock to distribute stock images from the nature images donated by our supporters. For eligible stock images, Shutterstock will donate a portion of the royalty to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to Shutterstock customers.

For eligible purchases through AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to AmazonSmile customers. All you need to do is push the SMILE NOW button and select to support THE HIGH ALERT INSTITUTE on AmazonSmile.

Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.

Have you always wanted a Koi pond but don’t have the space one? Sponsor a Koi in our community shelter pond and we send you photos of your sponsored animal. Coming soon are live Koi Cameras above and below the water to enjoy your sponsored Koi anytime.

Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this  association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.

Want to share our cause with family, friends, and colleagues? Looking for a non-traditional way to celebrate a birthday or honor someone special? Support the Institute by starting your own Peer-to-Peer fundraising challenge! Let your contacts know why our mission is important to you and what they can do to support your cause. START YOUR OWN FUNDRAISER for the High Alert Institute.

From the staffing pool to the shelter ponds, from the boardroom to the classroom, and from reading the science to writing the analyses, High Alert Institute programs and services benefit from the experience, expertise, and generosity of our volunteers. Put your talents to use for good and to good use – VOLUNTEER TODAY.

Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.

Professional photographers, amateurs, and legal copywrite holders are all welcome to participate in the High Alert Institute Nature Photo Donation Program. Sales of the images benefit the Institute and donors are eligible for tax deductions equivalent to the fair market value of their photos. Landscapes, seascapes, animals, flowers – all may be accepted – whether new or vintage  images. People may be included in the photo but only if unidentifiable (i.e., blurred figures at a distance).

Did you know that unused patents and copyrights can be donated to charity? Intellectual Property (IP) just sitting on a shelf will lose value as it becomes obsolete. The High Alert Institute IP Donation Program seeks to rescue stranded, technology-related IP with the potential for development into marketable products. Once accepted by the program, the owner/inventor is eligible for a tax deduction equivalent to the fair market value of the IP. The Institute receives the patent licensing fees or revenue from the sale of the IP to businesses, helping us to fund our mission. In turn, businesses are able to advance their markets and create jobs for less money than starting a project from scratch.

Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.

Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.

Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.

Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.

We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.

The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.

When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.

Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency  plans for natural and manmade disasters.

High Alert Institute



“Are we ready?” Five Questions to Ask Your Hospital Before Disaster Strikes

by | Jun 10, 2006

Chlorine gas leaks after a train-car derailment. Radiation contaminates the community when an industrial accident occurs. A levy breaks, washing through every refinery and industrial plant and polluting all the water. Terrorists attack. Pandemic flu strikes.
When large numbers of people in your community are very sick, the last thing you want is for your hospital to be incapacitated as well. In America, any hospital or emergency room is considered a “first receiver.” That is, in the event of any kind of a healthcare disaster or mass casualty event, they would be the first to receive patients. Therefore, hospitals must be able to work as health care providers and, to some degree, as hazardous materials (hazmat) operators. But setting up hazmat operations can cost up to $2 million, training decontamination teams can cost up to $250,000 in the first year, and running the required disaster drills twice a year, every year, can run anywhere from $125,000 – $250,000. Federal funding for these efforts has been scarce. So most private institutions have been left with two choices: Paying for equipment and training out of pocket, or not doing anything.
For small and rural hospitals, spending this kind of money for disaster preparedness has been difficult. But poor hospital response to Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, and the specter of pandemic flu on the horizon in the next 3-6 years, lead the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JACHO) and the federal government to begin enforcing longstanding rules about disaster preparedness for hospital accreditation. These rules include twice yearly disaster drills and the ability to be a first receiver.
Additionally, communities have been receiving Homeland Security funds to use for training, drills and equipment purchase since 2002. And yet 2005 data shows that almost every community in the United States is no better prepared in 2005 than they were in 2000. Many don’t spend what they receive, or they purchase equipment that they aren’t trained to use properly. How do you know if your local hospital is up to snuff as a first-receiver facility? Every individual citizen needs to ask the following five questions of their community’s healthcare institutions:

Question #1: What has been done to prepare? If your community is in an area where a natural disaster or an industrial accident could occur, is your hospital conducting live disaster drills? Tabletop drills, with toy cars and shoeboxes painted like houses are, obviously, insufficient. Shuffling chess pieces around the board and pretending that’s equivalent to human lives in the parking lot just doesn’t make sense. Nothing substitutes for what is called in disaster parlance, “getting cold and wet.” Full-scale scenarios with wet, “contaminated” patients, and front-line first receivers in bio-hazard gear will show hospital staff if they can properly cope with an influx of extra patients who need to be decontaminated. And a real disaster is not the time to discover that someone cannot function in the equipment provided. The best way to learn is by combining the familiar (the environment of the facility) with the unfamiliar (a disaster scenario of some type). 

Question #2: Who’s grading the drills? If your local hospital is holding drills, who’s grading them? A hospital grading its own performance is like asking a 10-year-old to grade his own final exam. Of course they’ll give themselves good marks, because they aren’t qualified to assess their own performance. In many cases, they might not even feel they’re “cheating” by giving themselves unmerited high marks, but most hospital administrators and CEOs don’t understand the standards or the evaluative procedure so they can’t objectively measure outcomes. Determining who grades drills is critically important. Even though they’ll be paid by the hospital, independent experts will offer a realistic, less biased assessment and will be capable of comparing the hospital to other similar facilities. An independent evaluator will be able to offer real recommendations to improve. 

Question #3: Does the ER door lock? And can people get past it without any difficulty? An episode of the television show ER pointed out this danger in the show’s first minute and a half. Following a very realistic disaster scenario—a ruptured tank at a chemical plant—three victims arrived in the ER completely soaked and non-decontaminated. And because the ER doors didn’t lock, they were able to walk straight in from the street, covered in a chemical so toxic that it ate through the floor laminate after the doctors stripped the victims of their clothes. A physician collapsed as the critically ill patients were hustled onto gurneys. 

Many emergency rooms have equally easy access, so the ER and every person in it can easily be contaminated. If the decontamination and first responder teams are in the ER at the time a contaminated individual or group wanders in, in effect the whole hospital is rendered useless and no longer has any ability to respond.

Question #4: Who is being trained? Many hospitals make the mistake of training only those in the emergency room for disaster response. And if their ER becomes contaminated, a disaster quickly turns into a catastrophe. What’s the difference? In a disaster, needs exceed resources. Trained providers have the people and the ability to respond, but run out of needed resources. In a catastrophe, needs exceed the ability to respond, and if you run out of trained responders, it doesn’t matter how much “stuff” you have. So trained people must be spread throughout the hospital: front desk, custodial staff, administration, and every other department. In the event that one team is lost, another team can quickly fill in. 

Question #5: What decontamination facilities are available? In studies of every disaster, 80% of the victims arrive at the hospital by some means other than an ambulance, which means they show up contaminated or potentially contaminated. Is your local hospital set up with the equipment to offer decontamination? The days of a single small shower inside the ER are gone forever. Some hospitals have put in permanent showers while others store equipment that can be set up in 15 minutes in trailers. Many hospitals have moved to collapsible shower tents with a middle aisle for gurneys, for those people who cannot move themselves. These offer a modicum of privacy for those who enter the shower on one side in their contaminated clothes, and exit the other side in scrubs. And the majority still use a garden hose and nozzle. Or they may rely on their local fire department and hazmat team; this can be problematic, though, since those first responders will head to the site of the disaster, not to the hospital to spray down patients. 

What can you do?
These five questions are tough ones that a lot of hospital administrators don’t want to answer because they know they will get failing marks. But when people in their own community ask, “Where do we stand?” they can be compelled to answer and to fill in the gaps in their disaster preparedness. Therefore:
• Every time you go to the hospital for something as simple as a blood test, you’ll get a satisfaction survey. At the bottom is a space to make a comment, so ask these questions every time you get such a survey.
• If your community’s media haven’t asked these questions of local healthcare administrators, then the public should be telling them to. Make phone calls to reporters at local papers and radio and television stations.
• Attend county commission and city government meetings on disaster planning and ask these questions. Almost every community now has at least one a year, if only to keep the Homeland Security dollars flowing.
• Every city, county, and state level of government has a website where you can ask these questions, as does every hospital. When you find the space where you’re asked what they can do to make things better for the community, this is the answer.

Ready or Not…Here We Come
Fortunately, Hurricane Katrina-sized disasters and pandemic flus don’t happen every year. But the sad truth is that, sooner rather than later, there will be another New Orleans, another Charity Hospital, and another total system failure if local communities don’t take care of themselves.
Most hospitals now are private businesses, completely driven by public perception, and the opinion of the loudest voices wins. So one person speaking out can make a difference, and a group of people calling out can make a huge difference. If a hospital consultant makes a recommendation, a CEO is likely to say, “Sure, but you’re not the one paying for it.” But if 50 or 100 or 1,000 hospital customers make the statement, that CEO will listen or will risk not being CEO anymore. When informed citizens in every county, every parish, and every city ask “Are we ready?” first receivers will be compelled to do what it takes to get the equipment, the people, and the training to keep everyone safe in the event of a disaster.

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