Preparedness pays off: two stories from the news

Boston University’s online newspaper contains an article today about how the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX weathered Hurricane Ike with flying colors, despite the beating taken by the island as a result of the storm. There is a really interesting account from their associate director of research, who said that “the positive outcome was no stroke of luck, but the result of wise engineering and a comprehensive emergency plan that includes a long-term weather-tracking strategy.” She also noted that “preparedness is attainable, and it works.”

At the University of Hawaii, roof repair work led to some major water leaking into their library. The account in the “Star Bulletin” today underlines how a quick response, based on excellent preparedness activities, can minimize damage and speed recovery. Based on their experiences with major flooding in 2004, the library has a well-developed disaster response team, who was actively watching for damage from the heavy rains, had the needed supplies on hand, knew what to do with wet materials and where to put them, and had a salvage company on site quickly to restore air quality and help with cleanup.

News reports of flooding:

KHON TV

KHNL TV

It’s nice to hear that preparedness efforts really do pay off–a huge return on a relatively small investment!

InSTEDD looks for Web 2.0 role in disaster response

The Google.org foundation is funding a new non-profit project called Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disaster (InSTEDD). Google.org’s executive director, epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, says the project hopes “to fulfill the much-needed role of an independent agent bringing the technological, medical, and organizational skills necessary to help the humanitarian aid community accomplish (early detection of public health threats and disasters), and ultimately help them to make the world a safer place.”

See: Twitter, Facebook called on for higher purpose

HealthVault: Secure, Online Storage for Health Info

Microsoft has released a new software and services platform, HealthVault, to help people store and manage their health information online, as well as search for health information.  This looks like an excellent resource for use by people in disaster-prone areas, such as hurricane and tornado alleys.  Keeping health-related records “off-site” through a service such as HealthVault would enable people who are suddenly displaced to retrieve information about prescriptions, medical records, etc. from anywhere.  We know, from the lessons learned courtesy of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, that many people who were forced to evacuate were not able to remember the names of their medications in many cases, recalling only the color and the number of pills they usually took.

Could promoting this be a role for librarians, especially in hospital settings?

Communities Helping Communities

Here’s a quote from Dennis Schrader, deputy administrator of FEMA’s National Preparedness Directorate, from a speech he delivered recently at the National Safety Council’s Congress & Expo in Chicago.  It’s the driving force behind the many accomplishments that we all have made with emergency preparedness in health sciences libraries.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to boil down to community–communities helping other communities.”

Georgetown Public Library Update

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Georgetown Voice on the recovery status of the library.

Fortunately for historians, the Peabody room escaped the disaster mostly unscathed. Dorsey said that 95 percent of the collection was saved. According to a library press release, library employees, as well as contractors from a document-preservation company called Belfor Property Restoration, were able to re-enter the building early on Tuesday and began loading water-sogged records into refrigerated trailers to prevent mold from setting in.

Though no timetable has yet been set, Mayor Adrian Fenty’s office estimates reconstruction will cost between $15 and $20 million. In the meantime, local residents will still be able to get their reading fix. According to the library release, “A bookmobile is being readied to serve the Georgetown community while efforts get underway to establish a temporary library.”