The University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS), in partnership with the McCormick Tribune Foundation, has organized the first national conference on vulnerable populations in emergency situations to be held Nov. 5-7 in Washington, D.C.
The needs of vulnerable populations-the poor, the isolated, the elderly, the disabled, children, immigrants, and refugees-during emergency situations was made especially evident in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
This "invitation only" event will include academic and health care experts, as well as first responders, who are knowledgeable about inner cities, elderly, homeless, and immigrants. Participants will evaluate the nation's emergency preparedness and what needs to be done to better serve vulnerable populations in future emergency situations.
The conference will result in the first national action plan on this subject for federal, state, and local officials, as well as first responders and health care workers.
The issues that will be examined at the conference include: communicating with vulnerable populations during a mass disaster; ensuring the effective delivery of necessary provisions, including medical assistance to communities; considerations of the disabled, the elderly, and other special needs individuals during a disaster; the involvement of residents in the emergency planning process; transportation and evacuation procedures for vulnerable populations during a disaster; and funding and leadership role recommendations.
Michael Greenberger, JD, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and director of CHHS, has been especially interested in this subject since the hurricanes of 2005.
"Despite the availability of school buses and other available modes of transportation during Hurricane Katrina, and despite a local evacuation plan that dictated that everyone should have been out of New Orleans when the levees broke, over 100,000 mostly poor and otherwise disadvantaged citizens were left behind, to wait out the storm in the Superdome and Convention Center. These facilities had inadequate supplies and were without law and order," Greenberger said.
"The poor, the elderly, the disabled, the homeless, and non-English speakers were, and have continued to be, wholly ignored in federal, state, and local emergency planning efforts pre-dating and post-dating Katrina," Greenberger added. "Despite thousands of pages of governmental `lessons learned' after Katrina, little attention has been paid to preparing vulnerable populations for catastrophic emergencies, even though the prospect of a pandemic influenza, for example, is staring the country in the face."
To learn more about the conference, and to read material on the plight of vulnerable populations, visit the CHHS vulnerable populations conference Web site at: http://www.umaryland.edu/healthsecurity/mtf_conference/index.html#FirstResponseandDisaster.
CHHS, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, was established to develop, coordinate, and expand scientific research, public policy, training, legal analysis, government consulting, and scholarly programs within the University's professional schools relating to counterterrorism crisis and consequence management issues. Today, the CHHS, which boasts over 35 employees, works on a variety of projects, including prevention and response to natural and man-made disasters and pandemic flu preparedness for various levels of government. To learn more about the work of CHHS, visit: http://www.umaryland.edu/healthsecurity/.
The mission of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, the conference sponsor, is to advance the ideals of a free, democratic society by investing in our children, communities, and country.