“A banker lends you an umbrella when the sun is shining, but takes it back when it starts to rain.” – old joke of unknown origin.
Fortunately, healthcare providers are not bankers! A resilient community has to be a healthy one, and the healthcare system has to be at its best when the public needs it the most. At no moment is this challenge more acute than when a community contends with a natural hazard: flooding, a hurricane; a tornado.
For several years now, the American Meteorological Society and healthcare and public health communities have carried on a conversation about maintaining healthcare infrastructure during and following disasters. (You can find more information on earlier workshops here and here.) The dialog has touched on the role of improved forecasts (our AMS stock-in-trade) but only as one of several means to the larger end of contributing to healthcare resilience more broadly. The view here is that healthcare resilience starts with attention to land use and building codes, as well as to the resilience of the larger community. Improved weather forecasts and hazards warnings contribute most effectively to reducing the residual risk remaining after more important factors such as these have been tended to.
This conversation has owed much to the single-minded dedication and craftsman-like care with which Ms. Wendy Marie Thomas of our AMS Policy Program staff assembled the speakers and other participants and knit together the agendas for the first two workshop programs. Over a period of several years she put the American Meteorological Society on the map as far as the national (and indeed, international) healthcare and public health communities were concerned. When they looked at AMS, they saw her, and decided we were a serious player, or could be made one if they invested a bit in us. Ms. Thomas was too good an asset to remain with us for long. The National Weather Service recognized her talents and brought her on board a more than a year ago. Fortunately, she left a legacy that included an AMS Board on Environment and Health, which comprises volunteers who, among other activities, organize conferences on that topic at each of our AMS Annual Meetings. (In February 2014, they’re holding their fifth meeting.)
For this workshop round, Shalini Mohleji, Ph.D., of the AMS Policy Program has done the honors of conceptualizing and organizing the sessions and topics. (Dr. Mohleji did her thesis on hazards and policy under Dr. Roger A. Pielke, Jr., at the University of Colorado; she’s lectured at the FEMA Academy and elsewhere, and is scheduled to teach a course on science and public policy this coming spring semester at the University of Miami.) With the partial but prolonged government shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis, Dr. Mohleji hasn’t been handed the easiest assignment, but when you take a look at the agenda you’ll see she’s done a masterful job.
But Shali (and this undoubtedly goes for Wendy Marie as well) would be quick to deflect any credit in another direction entirely. Both would tell you that while the meteorological community epitomizes selfless dedication to the cause of public safety and well-being, the healthcare and public health communities’ passion for their work and commitment to the greater good is absolutely unmatched. It would have been easy for the speakers and session moderators listed here to blow off our invitations, pleading earlier commitments, heavy workloads, and traveling uncertainties. But in instance after instance, they made wrenching adjustments to their schedules to accommodate this workshop. They were unwilling to let any opportunity to advance the cause of resilient healthcare pass. Even the most casual look at the program reveals that. But the speakers and panelists are just the tip of the iceberg. Many others are coming just to participate from the floor.
It’s going to be a terrific two days of rich discussion. Are you interested in whether the nation’s healthcare infrastructure will grow more resilient to hazards in coming decades or less so, and why? Do you wonder how prospects for that resilience might be improved? How insurers and healthcare providers can contribute to broader community resilience nationwide? These and other issues will be addressed. Resources didn’t permit a webcast of these proceedings, but there will be a report.
Oh, and if you have time on your hands or the partial federal shutdown ends, please feel free to show up and join the 90 folks already registered. We’re meeting in the auditorium of the AAAS Building at 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington DC. We’ll have a Sharpie and name tags.
Here is the Workshop agenda in its entirety:
October 17, 2013
7:30am – 8:00am Continental Breakfast
8:00am – 8:15am Welcome
Shali Mohleji, American Meteorological Society
Part I: What has recent experience taught us about how the healthcare sector performs during weather-related disaster events?
8:15am – 10:15am Case Studies
Moderator: Dan Hanfling, Inova Health System
1. Steven LeBlanc, The University of Texas Medical Branch
2. Neil Bryant, Barnabas Health
3. Lewis Goldfrank, New York University Langone Medical Center
4. John Farnen, Mercy Strategic Projects and Stephen Meuschke, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc
5. John Copenhaver, Contingency Management Group and Bill Wittel, Hall County Public Safety Liaison
10:15am – 10:30am Coffee Break
10:30am – 11:30am Case Studies Panel
Moderator: Dan Hanfling, Inova Health System
1. Steven LeBlanc
2. Neil Bryant
3. Lewis Goldfrank
4. John Farnen, Stephen Meuschke
5. John Copenhaver, Bill Wittel
11:30am – 12:30pm Lunch
Part II: How can the broader network assist the healthcare sector in building resilience?
12:30pm – 2:00pm Risk Assessors
Moderator: Debra Ballen, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
1. Thomas Santos, American Insurance Association
2. Annette Konieczka, Zurich North America
3. Michael Widdekind, Zurich North America
4. John Maurer, The Joint Commission
2:00pm – 2:30pm Coffee Break
2:30pm – 4:00pm Development sector
Moderator: Brian Masterson, U.S. Air Force
1. Chuck Miccolis, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
2. Lindsey Waters, HKS Architecture
3. Stephen Meuschke, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., and John Farnen, Mercy Strategic Projects
4. Robin Guenther, Perkins and Will
4:00pm – 5:30pm Continuity of Service sector
Moderator: Joe Barbera, Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management, The George Washington University
1. Michael Bardin, Perkins and Will
2. Arash Azadegan, Supply Chain Disruption Research Laboratory, Rutgers Business School
3. Luis Kun, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University
4. Howard Gwon, Johns Hopkins Medicine
5:30pm – 7:00pm Working Dinner (optional): How can we improve healthcare resiliency, both in infrastructure resiliency and healthcare service continuity? How do we expand these improvements nationwide?
October 18, 2013
8:00am – 8:45am Continental Breakfast
8:45am – 10:00am Panel Discussion With All Workshop Speakers
Moderator: Shali Mohleji, American Meteorological Society
1. In your opinion, which one of the following three scenarios seems most likely in the near future, long-term future and why?
a. A degraded health system from today
b. The status quo health system
c. An upgraded health system
2. What are the greatest challenges to building resilience for health facilities and services?
3. Where are the current and future opportunities for building resilience?
4. What should the priorities be for building resilience of the health system?
5. What should next steps be following this workshop?
10:00am – 10:30am Coffee Break
10:30am – 12:00pm Panel Discussion with Working Dinner Group Leaders
1. How can we improve healthcare resilience, both in infrastructure resiliency and healthcare service continuity?
2. How do we expand these improvements nationwide?
12:00pm – 12:30pm Wrap-up
William H. Hooke, Associate Executive Director, American Meteorological Society
 And it’s owed much as well to the Policy Program support provided by funding agencies and corporations, including but not limited to NOAA, NASA, NSF, DoE, Lockheed-Martin and Ball Aerospace.