13: Hurricane Preparedness

Gerrit Bakker, ASTHO’s Senior Director for Public Health Preparedness, urges all ASTHO members to prepare for hurricanes, not just those with borders on the Atlantic coastline; Jes Lyons, ASTHO Senior Analyst of Social and Behavioral Health, offers...

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Gerrit Bakker, ASTHO’s Senior Director for Public Health Preparedness, urges all ASTHO members to prepare for hurricanes, not just those with borders on the Atlantic coastline; Jes Lyons, ASTHO Senior Analyst of Social and Behavioral Health, offers useful advice for agencies thinking about how to braid and layer funding to maximize the impact of critical programs; and Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s State Health Officer, talks about vaccines in a YouTube video he recorded with his governor, the Hon. Kay Ivey.

Webpage: NWS Hurricane Preparedness 2021

Report: Braiding and layering funding for adverse childhood experiences prevention

YouTube: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey interviews Dr. Scott Harris on COVID-19

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, August 26th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


Hurricane season in the Atlantic is underway with forecasters calling for 15 to 21 named storms and seven to 10 hurricanes. Heavy rain, even for states not along the east coast, can be devastating and lead to many public health problems.

Gerrit Bakker is the senior director for public health preparedness at ASTHO. He says every ASTHO member should be thinking about how to respond if a big storm event occurs.

It's today's morning conversation.

Just recently, Hurricane Henri became a tropical storm when it got to shore here. It hit New England, but it also tore up other states that were nowhere near the coast—namely, Tennessee suffered a lot of death and destruction as a result of all the flooding. So, now you don't even have to be on the coast to be thinking about hurricane preparedness.

Are health departments away from the ocean doing this as well?


Well, they should be.

One of the things that, as you mentioned with hitting New England, is that you're seeing an impact on states that typically are not impacted by these sorts of storms. We saw that during Hurricane Sandy several years ago.

So, you're also seeing states that are being battered by lots of other things. You mentioned Tennessee—Tennessee is really very hard hit by COVID right now as well. So, COVID has impacted the ability of states to drill and exercise, so they may not be able to have been as well prepared.

So, what should they be doing? They need to identify who their partners are. They need to be very clear about what their roles and responsibilities are, and they need to be very familiar with the resources that are available to assist them in a response, whether it's private, state, federal, or otherwise.


Beyond planning to respond, which makes complete sense, is there anything they can do before a crisis to better prevent public health problems when storms do occur?


Well, you can't prevent, but hopefully you can mitigate what that response might look like.

So, there are several recommendations that they might have. One would be to make sure that they're including all of the stakeholders in the community. ASTHO has a big activity right now in making sure that persons with disabilities are at the table planning for the response. They need to work to develop resilient communities—a resilient community bounces back much more quickly. They need to engage and train their staff so the staff is prepared to assist in our response.

And I like to think of developing a culture of preparedness so that the systems are resilient and so that they could be accelerated in emergency. And emergency response, ultimately, is just increasing the size and scale an activity to do it faster in a response. So, the size and scale of their programs and the processes available to them, whether it's getting additional resources or processing resources, is really important.

So they also—the last thing I would suggest is to be prepared with contingencies for the routine things that still have to happen. So, for example, if you do newborn screening, what happens if the laboratory can't process newborn screening? Got to have a contingency—where would you send those tests?

These are all things that can be done related to hurricane response, but also to anything else.



Also today, ASTHO has produced a new guide for states and territories interested in knowing more about how to braid or layer funding streams to maximize the impact of critical programs. The guide tells members how to build funding momentum for adverse childhood experiences prevention efforts.

Jes Lyons is a senior analyst of social and behavioral health at ASTHO. She says the first step in the process is often the most difficult.


My team and I have had several conversations with experts in the field, and really my main takeaway from them is to be bold and to be brave. And sometimes asking that first question, that first step towards action, is the hardest. But once you get started, it's like a dam has burst.

So, try starting the conversation, I would say with your project officers. Often braiding and layering can help programs achieve the goals outlined in your funding announcement in a more efficient and impactful way.


The guide is packed with tips, tools, and resources. Download it now using the link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Of course, the focus on vaccines is greater than ever this year because of the pandemic.

Dr. Scott Harris is Alabama's state health officer. He recently joined his state's governor, Kay Ivey, to answer questions about vaccines.

Here's how he responded on YouTube to a concern about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women.


We've had many women now who've gotten vaccinated who'd gone ahead and gotten pregnant and now are actually starting to have their babies now, and there's no issues related to that at all.

One thing we do know is that pregnant women are a little bit more likely to do poorly if they get COVID than an average person, and pregnancy weakens your immune system a little bit, in a way. So, if you're a pregnant person, we definitely want you to be protected by getting the vaccine.

But, as always, talk to your own doctor. Ask your obstetrician what he or she thinks, and take their advice.



Find a link to the full YouTube conversation along with links to all of the other resources mentioned this morning in today's show notes.

Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

And, if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.

Scott Harris MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA

State Health Officer, Alabama Department of Public Health

Jessica Lyons MPH PMP

Senior Analyst, Social and Behavioral Health, ASTHO

Gerrit Bakker

Senior Director, Preparedness, ASTHO