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



disaster response workforce, COVID-19, disaster management


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.

Author Biographies

Jennifer Marshall, PhD, MPH, CPH

University of South Florida College of Public Health, Sunshine Education and Research Center, Tampa, Florida

Juita-Elena (Wie) Yusuf, PhD

School of Public Service, Strome College of Business, Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

Elizabeth Dunn, MPH, CPH

Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief, and Homeland Security (GHH), University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa Florida

Kelsey Merlo, PhD

Department of Psychology, I/O Psychology Program, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida

Joshua G. Behr, PhD

Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience, Old Dominion University, Suffolk, Virginia

A. Michael Shekari, BS

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida

Blake L. Scott, MPH

University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, Florida

Melanie Cruz, BS

University of South Florida College of Public Health, Tampa, Florida

Jennifer L. Whytlaw, PhD

Department of Political Science & Geography, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

Nicole S. Hutton, PhD

Department of Political Science and Geography, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia


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How to Cite

Marshall, PhD, MPH, CPH, J., J.-E. (Wie) Yusuf, PhD, E. Dunn, MPH, CPH, K. Merlo, PhD, J. G. Behr, PhD, A. M. Shekari, BS, B. L. Scott, MPH, M. Cruz, BS, J. L. Whytlaw, PhD, and N. S. Hutton, PhD. “Challenges for the Disaster Workforce During a Compound hurricane–pandemic”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 19, no. 7, Oct. 2021, pp. 9-18, doi:10.5055/jem.0591.