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



The Effect of Regional Environments on Impact

by | Oct 4, 2022

Micro-environments and macro-environments, referring to the most intimate and the most global habitats, tend to receive considerable attention in discussions of determinants of health (DoH). What  lies in the middle, however, may have a significant impact both on the forces that drive change and the consequences of such events. These intermediate habitats are referred to as regional environments.

Within the interdependent models of health determinants, regional environments are a growing area of study. Many facets of DoH – i.e., social, environmental, financial – are being examined at the regional level as factors of health disparities. Evaluating regional influence is also common to All-Hazards disaster response frameworks. Even when micro- and macro-environments are essentially the same, markedly different impacts across regional environments are possible. The comparative impacts of Hurricane Ian across 4 Florida counties will be summarized in this article, providing a powerful and relevant illustration of regional environments as determinants of health.

At both the state and county levels, Florida authorities and agencies are well versed in hurricane preparedness. The proposed track for Hurricane Ian, as well as the track the storm actually took, are well-trod by prior hurricanes including Charlie, Irma, and multiple unnamed storms over the past 50 years. Infrastructure has been upgraded and levels of preparedness were higher with this event than in prior years. But regional factors would prove to have significant roles on the drivers and consequences experienced by communities along Ian’s path.

Hurricane Ian made landfall with the leading eyewall – the most severe weather surrounding the eye – rated as a Category 4 major hurricane (Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Windscale). This occurred near Cayo Costa in Lee County at 15:05 EDT on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Winds were sustained at 150 mph, bringing over 20 inches of rain and a 7-foot storm surge (water pushed ashore by high winds). While the storm surge did all of its damage on barrier islands and within a few miles of the coast, the rains and rain-related flooding represented an eerily consistent factor in the storm’s impact. Surrounding communities and even major interstates leading to and from Lee County were submerged by surface flooding from rain and rain runoff.

Less than 100 miles to the northeast, Polk County received the leading eyewall of Ian at approximately 01:00 EDT on Thursday, September 29, as a weak Category 1 hurricane. While wind speeds were sustained at only 75 mph at the Institute’s on-site wind turbine, rainfall also exceeded 20 inches and significant damages did occur. But topography and other regional factors affecting the environment, such as relatively decreased land development and increased capacity for drainage, resulted in a lesser degree of flooding.

Many have attributed the lesser degree of flooding of Polk vs Lee County to inland location and distance traveled by the storm . However, adjacent Osceola County suffered far worse flooding despite being an additional 40 miles northwest than Polk County. Hurricane Ian’s eyewall did not reach the town of  Kissimmee (see on national news) in Osceola County until around 05:00 EDT that same morning. By then, Ian had become a strong Tropical Storm with sustained winds of less than 65 mph yet still delivering almost 20 inches of rain. The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes is located within Osceola County and forms the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and Florida Bay. This chain is composed of four major lakes totaling approximately 65,000 surface acres and feeds into a river that travels south to Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and Florida Bay. Despite lesser winds and no greater rainfall, this county suffered flooding of communities to depths exceeding 6 feet of standing water in homes, businesses, over roads, and flooded the local hospital. Regional environmental factors again altered the impact of the same event and similar total rainfalls.

Ian finally exited Central Florida and arrived in coastal Volusia County (another 80 miles to the northeast) at 13:00 EDT on Thursday, September 29. By then, wind speeds had fallen but 28 inches of rainfall would be recorded in the New Smyrna Beach areas. Like many areas, Volusia County experienced flooding but, despite significantly more rainfall, this region had far less flooding than Osceola County. Once more, regional environmental factors buffered the impact of the storm in a fashion more akin to Polk County than Lee or Osceola counties.

Disaster scenarios can provide strong examples of social, environmental, and financial health determinants that are affected by regional habitats. Across the One Health/All Hazards/One Framework paradigm, contributing factors within regions have the potential to mitigate and/or exacerbate determinants of health. These regional differences not only add to the complexity of predicting health and well-being outcomes but complicate the understanding of the cause and effect relationships across conceptual frameworks. 

About the Authors

Allison A. Sakara, N.P., M.S.N., R.N., P.H.R.N.

Founder & Executive Director, High Alert Institute, Inc. (a 501c3 Not-for-Profit)

Most Valuable Hurricane Katrina Response Team Member, DHS/FEMA/ASPR


Maurice A. Ramirez, D.O., Ph.D.

Founder & Chairperson, High Alert Institute, Inc. (a 501c3 Not-for-Profit)

Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Disaster Medicine

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High Alert Institute

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