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Challenges for the disaster workforce during a compound hurricane–pandemic

Jennifer Marshall, PhD, MPH, CPH, Juita-Elena (Wie) Yusuf, PhD, Elizabeth Dunn, MPH, CPH, Kelsey Merlo, PhD, Joshua G. Behr, PhD, A. Michael Shekari, BS, Blake L. Scott, MPH, Melanie Cruz, BS, Jennifer L. Whytlaw, PhD, Nicole S. Hutton, PhD

Abstract


The COVID-19 pandemic has created new workforce considerations for emergency management community in addressing cumulative and cascading disasters. This research identifies how emergency management planning for both the changing dynamics of COVID-19 and the upcoming hurricane season may change under a compound threat. Many jurisdictions have faced challenges in providing adequate staffing of shelters before the pandemic. Now, fatigue among staff further exacerbates these challenges as resources are stretched thin. Six workshops, involving 265 national, state, and local leaders, staff, experts, and advocates from 22 states, and a range of disciplines (disaster planning, public health, social services, academia, and healthcare), were convened to identify concerns and potential strategies to address staffing, training, logistics, and support. Strategies proposed to increase the number and skill set of staff available involve increased reliance upon volunteers and nonprofit organizations. Mental health resources, personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies, and defining roles within emergency shelters were recommended to reduce fatigue and redistribute responsibilities. Findings illuminate additional research avenues regarding assessing the underlying stressors contributing to the planning process and effective means of implementing these interventions to bolster emergency management shelter operations during a prolonged pandemic and in the future.


Keywords


disaster response workforce, COVID-19, disaster management

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.0591

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