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



Of Nightingales, Canaries, BATS and Avian Flu

by | Jul 23, 2008

At the turn of the 19th century, miners carried canaries into the caves not as pets, but as sentinels. The canary’s song was an angelic chorus to reassure the miners of their safety. It was not a klaxon alarm, but the silence of death that warned of toxic air. The term “cave canary” has become synonymous with the death of innocents heralding the death of all.


New Headlines – Not New News


Like so many of the miscalculations of the early pandemic preparation, many believed that the first to fall in the coming pandemic would be children and the elderly. Seasonal influenza affects these age groups more than those in the midst of life because immune function flags at the extremes of age. Conversely, pandemic influenza wreaks its havoc by over-activating the immune system.


Nursing homes, correctional institutions as well as the disabled and children have not been considered in local, regional, or state pandemic planning.  In fact, they are barely mentioned even in federal planning. In June of 2006 the Institute of Medicine published reports on the state of preparedness but pointed out that even emergency services had been left out of much planning.  


It is imperative that healthcare professionals of all stripes become experts not only in pandemic planning but in the “All Hazards” approach to disaster and catastrophic event planning.  Whether it is a pandemic, a hurricane, an earthquake, a forest fire, or a terrorist event that threatens the community, bitter experience has taught us that concentrations of individuals living in institutional settings, in prisons, military barracks, or university dormitories become the “cave canaries” of society.  


In 1918 Spanish flu outbreaks, which actually began in Kansas, were first seen in epidemic form in U.S. military barracks.  The outbreaks of measles in the 1980s were first seen in university dormitories across the United States.  And the largest concentration of the recurrence of tuberculosis is seen in correctional institutions.


The 2003 SARS outbreak also provided us with a small-scale example of the effects of a pandemic on healthcare. Following the outbreak of SARS in Canada, healthcare workers in 4 Toronto area hospitals began to fall ill. Soon nurses and doctors were looking through protective equipment at colleagues and friends. The disease had changed the normal “us and them” relationship to “us and me.” These professionals watched their friends die. The result of SARS on the healthcare professionals who worked in these 4 Toronto hospitals was that 50% left healthcare entirely. 


It is a Mathematical Certainty


The most ominous words ever uttered by a disaster preparedness expert were voiced during a deep background interview. This expert stated simply that given the current state of hospital preparedness and the current rate at which facilities are becoming disaster ready, there will be no meaningful level of preparedness in this decade unless someone blows up a hospital. This may seem a bit extreme, but declassified documents show that Al Qaeda seeks to steal an ambulance and blow it up at a major American trauma center.  


Unfortunately, this scenario is based on the lesser of the threats currently facing healthcare. History over the last three centuries has taught us that novel avian pandemic flu occurs every 91 years (plus or minus 3.5 years for antigenic drift).  Given that the last major pandemic was the 1917/1918 Spanish flu this means that we can expect a pandemic flu outbreak between 2006 and 2013.


The true impact of this disease lies in the numbers.  In 1918 100 percent of the entire world was exposed to what would later be called the Spanish Flu.  This new strain of avian flu had never been encountered before by a human population, and as a result, there was no immunity to this particular strain.  Of that world population, one-third would ultimately fall ill, in fact, 50 to 80 percent of the youngest, healthiest, and strongest would fall ill when future generations would divide out the victims.


When these ominous numbers were scrutinized further, a far more dire picture evolved.  Research into the 1918 pandemic, as well as pandemics before and since 1918, has shown that the majority of illness and death occurred not in the very old or the very young, not in the sick and infirm, but in those who are in the “prime of life”; those age 18 to 40.


Because of the way that novel avian viruses (pandemics) attack the lungs and cause “immune system storms”, the ultimate irony of a pandemic is that the younger and stronger you are the more likely you are to die.  In 1918 fully two-thirds of all those who became ill were in the age range of 18 to 40.  More distressing is the fact that 98 percent of all those who died were aged 18 to 40 years.  In fact, those over age 55 had no greater rate of illness or death during the pandemic of 1918 than they did in any other flu season in the years immediately before or after that great pandemic.  Similarly, those less than 18 years of age suffered no increase in death rate.


Nightingales: The Modern Cave Canaries


Like the cave canaries of old, the biological sentries for pandemic influenza will be those most exposed and most sensitive to the disease. The modern cave canaries will be healthcare professionals. The spectrum of patients to which each healthcare provider is exposed combined with the fact that healthcare providers are typically in the prime age for pandemic infection means that the healthcare workforce is the ideal high-fidelity influenza biosensor. When pandemic influenza enters a community it will be these most valuable members of the pandemic response who will fall first.


In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, it was not society’s nightingales who suffered first, but those who were shunned by society. The deaths of homosexual men foretold not only of the epidemic at hand, but of a far more ominous trend. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) initially spread slowly through a subset of the gay male community while another, generally more sexually active subset remained largely uninfected. Despite frequent sexual encounters with multiple anonymous partners, gay male bathhouses functioned as relatively closed micro-communities that occasionally exchanged diseases, but were initially AID free. Suddenly HIV was introduced into the bathhouse scene and exploded in a manner not previously seen in any disease.


The combination of the closed bathhouse community and the high level of infection exchange through sexual activity created an environment, not unlike a laboratory bioreactor accelerating the rate of viral replication and viral mutation. Because this bioreactor-type environment required both a behavioral pattern conducive to disease exchange and an infectious disease prone to mutation to combine in a discrete location, the bath houses were termed Behavioral Amplification and Transmission Sites (BATS).


BATS and Bird Flu


Unfortunately, unlike the miner’s canaries, healthcare’s nightingales are a migratory flock. In addition to their primary jobs in community healthcare facilities, offices, hospitals, and ERs, healthcare providers and nurses in particular moonlight as part-time staff in any number of roles including correctional institution healthcare. America’s jails and prisons, like the bathhouses of the 1980s, provide a modern bioreactor for tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS, and soon, pandemic influenza.


A worrisome scenario envisions the arrival of a low-level pandemic influenza infection concentrating in the healthcare workforce. As this workforce migrates from their primary job to secondary work sites, they become vectors for the spread of the disease. The disease in introduced into the closed environment of the correctional institution where close living quarters, poor hygiene, and sexual practices increase the spread of disease as well as the reinfection rate. Prisons become BATS for pandemic influenza and mutation rates accelerate exponentially. 


The same workforce that introduced the original infection is cross infected with the new mutated strain and is vector spread back to the general community. Worst of all, the nature of influenza mutation and virulence supports the proposition that BATS will select preferentially for the most infectious and lethal new strains.


Critical Collapse


The implications for America’s hospitals and healthcare institutions are inescapable.  Fully two-thirds of the active workforce will fall ill during the 16 to 18 months of the disease throughout the pandemic. Up to fifty percent of the workforce will not report to duty as they care for themselves and their family. As healthcare workers migrate from job to job, they carry the disease into BATS and ultimately carry back more lethal forms of the disease. Twenty-five percent of the young workforce (the 18 to 40 years) will die.  


The ultimate impact of the pandemic on healthcare:


  • During the pandemic outbreak, up to 50% healthcare workforce absenteeism
  • During the pandemic outbreak, up to 25% healthcare professionals death rate
  • Following the pandemic outbreak, 75% of healthcare professionals still alive
  • Following the pandemic outbreak, 50% of remaining healthcare workforce quits
  • Over the course of the pandemic outbreak, the healthcare workforce shrinks 62.5% 


Who will replace them?


Lest healthcare embrace preparedness this is the fate of us all.

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