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Keeping an Eye on Hurricane Season


Credit: iStock

The Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response continues to closely monitor hurricane season amid the recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Florence made landfall on Friday, Sept. 14, near Wilmington, North Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane, pounding the region with heavy wind and rain, along with a storm surge and flooding. More than 30 people died — mostly in North Carolina. Florence also caused extensive damage and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.

Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) of highly trained personnel were deployed to North Carolina ahead of Florence. Several Johns Hopkins Medicine staff and faculty members, including Christina Catlett, CEPAR’s associate director and emergency medicine physician, were among those deployed to support DMAT personnel responding in impacted areas in the South.

With DMATs already stationed in areas hard hit by Florence, the Johns Hopkins Go Team has not been called in to assist. The Go Team, which is part of CEPAR, is a multidisciplinary medical team that can rapidly deploy to areas of crisis following a natural or man-made disaster. In the event of a disaster, the Go Team is prepared to respond quickly if Johns Hopkins receives a specific request from a state or federal agency or other official entity.

Hurricane season runs through November.

What can you do after Florence?

It’s human nature to want to help. However, “helping” may not always be helpful, and may actually be detrimental to the response.

Traveling as an individual or group of well-meaning health care providers to an area impacted by a disaster without a formal request is not recommended, and can be dangerous. Disaster zones are typically unsafe, and individuals who decide to travel to these locations could put themselves at risk. Most importantly, errant volunteers strain already scarce resources (i.e., volunteers need to be housed and fed or may end up injured or in need of evacuation themselves).

Sending monetary donations to a reputable nonprofit disaster response organization is the best way to help after a disaster. Officials will be able to use the financial resources in the most appropriate manner for what the area needs. Unless specifically requested by a reliable relief organization, CEPAR recommends not sending clothing or supplies to a disaster area via local drives. These items may not meet the needs of people in the affected area and require volunteers on-site to sort through them, potentially displacing volunteers from other much-needed efforts.

View an article for tips on “smart donating” after a disaster hits.

Also, please visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov site for tips to stay safe before, during and after a hurricane.