High Alert Institute



One Great Solution for Improving Healthcare Preparedness

by | Jun 29, 2007

Our nation faces two interesting challenges when it comes to the healthcare response to disasters.  The first is that according to an Institute of Medicine report published in June 2006, hospitals have by and large failed to meet even the most basic standards for disaster preparedness.  In other words, they have failed to develop relationships within their own communities, ignoring even EMS and community-wide Emergency Response Services thus failing to integrate these critical services into the hospital disaster plan.


Further, most hospitals, now six years after 9/11, still fail to provide basic disaster response training to all of their employees. Basic Incident Command training that would allow their employees and care providers to integrate themselves into the community-wide response, while required by federal guidelines, is still reserved for members of the administrative team. Most hospitals have even failed to hold or participate in community-wide Disaster Drills despite a four-year-old mandate for these drills each year. Although the reasons cited by hospitals for their failure are many, they are also largely invalid.  Requirements have existed for such Community-Wide Disaster Drill since 2003 and since 2002, the federal government had paid for or provided free-of-charge educational opportunities for hospital employees.  Unfortunately now, most of that federal funding has ended, the five-year grants have expired. 


There is however one opportunity for the federal government to use existing assets, augmented by existing state government assets, to provide not only training but disaster drill opportunities to hospitals and other portions of healthcare.  The Natural Disaster Medical System (NDMS) has within its ranks Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) who are trained in all aspects of incidents command, disaster vulnerability analysis, disaster planning, disaster response, and disaster recovery.  Individuals who make up DMAT teams are civilian healthcare professionals who, when not deployed by our federal government, function as unpaid reservers, part-time federal employees on stand-by status, receiving no pay while remaining on call and ready to deploy within two hours in the event of national disaster or terrorism. 


DMAT teams represent the perfect opportunity for the federal government to utilize an asset already in the federal budget to provide not only training to hospitals in the communities surrounding a DMAT team but community-wide, externally designed, and graded disaster drills that would include not only the hospitals but fire rescue, law enforcement, local county and even state emergency operations integrated with state and federal disaster response assets in coordinated community-wide drills. In other words, the best possible practice model.  


Expanding the services offered by DMAT teams to their surrounding communities would also serve the objectives of the federal government by providing an opportunity for DMAT teams to hold Field Training Exercises (FTXs) and to network with healthcare assets in the surrounding communities.  NDMS has sought for years to develop a network of participating hospitals that would accept patients from distant field disaster sites transported by military or other assets and requiring hospitalization outside of the disaster zone.  


The average hospital will spend between $90,000 – 180,000 per year in the coming decade just for disaster drills and training, and this does not include the cost of paying employees to participate in those drills and training opportunities. Participation in federally sponsored federally funded, DMAT based disaster training and exercises would represent a significant inducement to hospitals to join the NDMS hospital system and a significant benefit to NDMS member hospitals.  


State medical response teams, known under various names in various locations, could provide a similar opportunity for the state to both build relationships between their teams and their communities as well as improve the operational efficiency of teams through exercises and education. 


Conceivably, even Medical Reserve Core units (MRC) could participate by providing local leadership and coordination efforts for their hospitals and communities as the MRC provides the earliest possible disaster response, providing for healthcare needs in those initials hours after an event. 


Certainly, there will be the challenges of Congressional funding and special interest groups claiming that the federal government is subsidizing programs that benefit for-profit hospitals.  More importantly, however, a program such as this would ensure that our healthcare infrastructure was maximally prepared for the next Hurricane Katrina, for the next Oakridge earthquake, for the next Americas Georgia tornados, for the next great river flood.  NDMS member hospitals deserve to receive some benefit for becoming an NDMS hospital and assuming the additional responsibilities that come, uncompensated, with agreeing to participate in America’s disaster healthcare response system.  Using DMAT teams to train, drill, and evaluate America’s healthcare infrastructure will ensure that the survivors of disaster receive the best healthcare available while the rest of us rest assured that our community’s healthcare is truly prepared if the disaster comes to our doorstep.


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.

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High Alert Institute

4800 Ben Hill Trail
Lake Wales, FL 33898
Office: 863.696.8090
FAX: 407.434.0804


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