High Alert Institute



The Gift of Resilience

by | Dec 31, 2006

December 29, was an amazing, exhausting 45 hour day. In the aftermath I had the opportunity first to take stock of everything that had happened, of how the corporations, companies, people and professionals and the resources of a nation come together to save one life. After the euphoria had dimmed the fatigue set in.

The holiday season is stressful for all of us, this year for me, especially so. My physical resilience had already been stressed by an unexpected encounter with influenza (H1:N1). When I got the news a few days before Christmas that I had the Spanish flu, I actually had to chuckle. Imagine an expert on pandemic preparedness that I had H5:N1.

As with any influenza, the body aches and fever ensued. Laryngitis made it difficult to dictate my daily magazine column. Patients would chuckle in the emergency department and then nervously ask me if I was contagious. I assured them that because of Tamiflu and the fact that I was beyond the infectious period, they had nothing to worry about.

Christmas preparations had been hectic, but Christmas Day had been a joy. The day after Christmas, my wife and children went to my in-laws home for a visit while I stayed behind, both to work and to insure that I did not inadvertently carry an illness to my already sick father in-law. This is the first time since we married that my wife and I did not spend the entire holiday season together and I found myself sipping from my canteens of relationship and emotional resilience.

The laryngitis had also excluded me from four religious concerts for which I had prepared diligently. Although I had enjoyed the beauty of the religious services, there was a twinge of disappointment in not lending my voice in praise and expression of my spiritual beliefs.

When “Glen” arrived in the emergency room all focus shifted to him. As we worked first to stabilize him, then to find a place that could care for him and finally a way to get him to that place I transitioned from drawing on resilience for my personal needs to drawing on resilience to complete the mission. Taking “Glen’s” wife on the transport meant that my own emotional resilience and even spiritual resilience would be sustaining not only myself, but “Glen” and her as well.

Without realizing it, I was now drinking deeply, gulping, from my canteens.

Exhaustion taxed my physical resilience as I crossed first 24 then 36 hours awake and on duty. My relationship resilience was drained by separation from family and my inability to meet them at the airport as they returned home while I was on Coast Guard Rescue Flight 2114. Watching this couple hold hands for what may have been “Glen’s” last day sapped my emotional resilience. My only remaining reserve was my spiritual resilience. This canteen was constantly refilled by the knowledge that it was only true Providence that “Glen” had come to the emergency department at all. That it was only through the hand of Providence that there was a physical sign of his illness that could not be explained by any other possibility. When a 49 year-old man comes to the emergency department with chest pain, the first thought is heart attack and the first treatment is one that would have killed “Glen”, but he had one physical sign, one thing, that could not be explained by heart attack and in fact could only be explained by the condition that he had. Yet when his CT scan was reviewed, he should not have had that sign. It was the knowledge of this Providence and the renewal of emotional resilience drawn from the waves of people who surged to save “Glen’s” life that made it possible for me to complete the mission.

I had been awake for 36 straight hours by the time I arrived home. My family was all there, having arrived back earlier in the day. They had sketchy information on where I had been and I was more interested in hearing about their trip than talking about mine.

My daughter Tiffany asked, “How do you do it? How do you work for 36 hours straight like that?” I told her that you pay a price. You trade a small piece of your life and health for a much bigger piece of theirs.

After a four hour nap, I awoke to find that the medical students, who had no way of knowing of what had transpired, had left me a present.

In the gift bag I found a snow globe, a miniature recreation of the place where they had volunteered their time. There was also a pin, one like those that each of them had worn as a volunteer and a small leather bookmark embossed with the mission of the Give Kids the World volunteers.

“What Matters…
One hundred years from now,
It will not matter what kind of car I drive,
What kind of house I live in,
How much I have in my bank account,
Nor what my clothes look like.
But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of one child.”

The card enclosed read:

“Dr. Ramirez,
You are a real sunshine maker!
Thanks so much for your hospitality and kindness! Gathering at your lovely home was a great way to start our unity project. We look forward to seeing you in D.C.
Best wishes, Sally Murad & SOMA”

Sally and her leadership team had asked if I would be willing to address them in April, 2007 in Washington, D.C. It was at the moment that I read the card and opened the snow globe that I knew what story I would tell.

I would tell them the story of a group of young medical students who had given up their Christmas and inspired an old doctor.

I would tell them the story of “Glen”, a 49 year old man whose birthday present to himself was the manifestation of an almost absolutely fatal condition and how a nation had come together to save his life.

I would tell them the story of being tired, of trading a small piece of your life and health for a bigger piece given to a stranger.

I would tell them the story of being close to drawing the last drop of resilience and how a card, a bookmark, a pin, and a snow globe refilled my 40,000 gallons of resilience.

As 2006 draws to a close and we all prepare to celebrate the renewal that 2007 represents,
I take stock in the things that I have (my physical resilience),
the people whom I share my life (my relationship resilience),
the joys, sorrows, triumphs and dreams of my life (my emotional resilience)
and the Providence that guides me (my spiritual resilience).

Happy New Year!

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.

Join the Institute
Stay informed and get updates.

*We do NOT share your information with any other sites or organizations.

High Alert Institute

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


Privacy Policy

Cookie Policy

Terms of Use


Get Your Data

Shipping Policy

Message Us



Do Not Sell Info

Return Policy