College faculty, students respond to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

Two University of Georgia College of Public Health faculty members deployed to Georgia’s State Operations Center (SOC) in Atlanta on Fri. Sept. 8 at the request of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Both Dr. Curt Harris, associate director of the Institute for Disaster Management, and Tawny Waltz, assistant research scientist in the Institute, spent 12 hours in the SOC pre-storm, assisting Emergency Support Function 8 (Public Health and Medical Services) personnel in answering phone calls and finding placement for/coordinating transport of Georgia hospital patients, long term care facility residents, and individuals with functional, access and medical needs evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Both Harris and Waltz were able to utilize their existing relationships with Georgia’s healthcare community to assist state personnel in these critical and potentially lifesaving endeavors.

Closer to home, College of Public Health faculty and disaster management students involved with UGA’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program assisted the Athens/Clarke County Emergency Operations Center in staffing its citizen call center as Tropical Storm Irma passed through Athens, Ga. Mon. Sept. 11 and Tues. Sept. 12. The volunteers, working in 12 hours shifts, helped to decrease the call volume to the 911 Center by answering non-emergency questions, providing sheltering information for local and Florida evacuees, connecting callers to local, state and federal emergency resources, and assisting the ACC EOC in collecting information about school closures, downed trees and power lines, and other weather-related issues needed for local response efforts. The MRC, co-directed by Nina Cleveland in the College of Public Health and Noelle Broadnax in the UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), and CERT Program, offered through the OEP, are sister volunteer organizations at UGA that provide pre-credentialed, pre-trained volunteers to assist with disaster responses.

In August, Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah DeYoung and Assistant Research Scientist Tawny Waltz from the Institute for Disaster Management deployed for quick response fieldwork one week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. They collected social science data in the Dallas area on evacuation decision-making, sheltering, relief operations, and companion animals. They were accompanied by Fiona Lang-Sharpe, a lactation consultant and professional doula from Canada, who works with Dr. DeYoung in infant and young child feeding in emergencies (IYCF-E) outreach and advocacy for Safely Fed USA.

– Rebecca Ayer and Lauren Baggett

Posted September 18, 2017.

Additional coverage in Sept. 1 and Sept. 15, 2017 ASPPH Friday Letter: and

Dr. Sarah DeYoung, assistant professor at UGA’s Institute for Disaster Management, and collaborator Fiona Lang-Sharpe consult with Dallas EMS Medical Command.

Tawny Waltz, assistant research scientist at UGA’s Institute for Disaster Management, outside the SPCA of Texas Hurricane Harvey Pet Evacuee Shelter.