Disaster preparedness reduces destruction, injury and death, and it makes good economic sense. Getting the health system ready for disasters is a game changer for communities at risk, helping them stay safe and recover faster. The best response to a disaster is a good plan.
The severity and frequency of natural and man-made disasters are on the rise as environmental, social and political factors contribute to the surge in complex humanitarian crises. Disasters now directly affect over 200 million people annually. At Americares, we must be ready 365 days a year so we can quickly respond to any global disaster. Last year we responded to 42 different disasters. With our partners around the world and here at home, we prepare for the worst that nature or humans can produce.
No one can stop hurricanes or droughts or earthquakes, but we know from decades of responding to disasters that we can identify historical vulnerabilities of certain areas like Tornadoes in the South and Central U.S., Typhoons in the Philippines, Floods in Kentucky, Hurricanes in the Caribbean, and Earthquakes in Nepal.
In the case of disease, we anticipate the conditions that contribute to such outbreaks and work to limit their impact. As the Global Pandemic of COVID grinds on, our focus on protecting health workers and health facilities here at home and around the world highlights the critical nature of providing health workers on the front lines of any disaster with the means to stay safe and continue meeting the health needs of their communities. We can mitigate the potential threat to health care services and save more lives by raising the level of local preparedness, making the health system more resilient and capable of caring for survivors during and after an emergency. In the United States, we are helping free clinics around the country build greater resilience in the face of the climate crisis and extreme weather events.
Even in civil conflicts and other man-made disasters, we can strengthen supply chain capabilities globally and locally and expand partnerships with other disaster and health organizations to be better prepared to meet health needs should a crisis arise. And now with human activity contributing to the effects of natural disasters and the increasing frequency of different types of disasters, disaster preparedness is rapidly becoming a matter of survival.
Planning for a disaster requires dynamic, direct action at the local level – a continuous process that takes place before, during and after a disaster. And a good plan needs reliable resources.
Americares Emergency Response Partners (AERP): These committed corporate partners help provide the reliable funding base necessary for Americares to respond swiftly and effectively to disaster events around the globe – the ones you see in the news and the ones you don’t. Their commitment combined with the generosity of our individual donors means that our local partners, experienced staff and ER roster have the resources needed to save lives and restore health.
Local Health Centers
We maintain a global network of 4,000 health partners, including nearly 1,000 local health centers in the US. In historically vulnerable areas, we work closely with these partners to prepare for a disaster with practical training and resource support. Before a disaster strikes, we also pre-position responders where possible, along with medicines and supplies for local health center partners.
The ER Team
Our emergency response experts are equipped and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. This includes staff stationed at our headquarters and around the globe. Our team is small, nimble and skilled. They effectively work with and leverage local partners to support local health care efforts during an emergency.
Additionally, we maintain and train a roster of global response professionals whom we can call upon to respond with us over time, bringing local knowledge and language skills from around the world as well as emergency response expertise. Our Emergency Response Roster makes it possible to ramp up quickly when we confront a large-scale disaster.
Our work in past disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, has led us to design emergency preparedness programs specific to safety net health facilities in the U.S. and local health centers globally, particularly those serving vulnerable populations. We know from decades of experience what it takes to save lives in the next disaster:
“Preparedness is about being empathetic and understanding how people are likely to behave in disasters and building systems around that.”