Preparing the Gulf Coast for Hurricane Ida

With Ida intensifying and threatening to hit the Gulf Coast as a category 4 hurricane, Healthcare Ready is activating our network of partners to help prepare and support the region’s healthcare and public health response in advance of this catastrophic event. What started as an informal public-private coalition after Katrina to make availability of pharmaceutical supplies in the greater New Orleans area consistent after that event, has grown into the national organization we are today. 

Our goal is to make sure that we maintain critical partnerships between government at the federal, state, and local levels, and the private sector supply chain. As today’s circumstances make even more evident, we need to be able to consistently focus on disaster preparedness and response, not just during a pandemic. We’ve seen with Katrina that it is impossible to maintain community and public health without a functioning resilient supply chain. Building on the lessons we’ve learned, we’ve been working ever since to provide the coordination, the information sharing, and problem-solving that’s needed to prepare for and respond to disasters and disease outbreaks. 

The good news is that in the 16 years since Hurricane Katrina, we’ve made measurable progress. Our medical and healthcare supply chain now has resiliencies in place that have allowed us to respond to Hurricane Maria and other large-scale events.  In fact, these strategies may need to be extended to other parts of the supply chain. As an example, the trainings Healthcare Ready holds with city managers and public health teams throughout the nation are helping us get there. Fortunately, we’ve conducted these sessions across the Gulf Coast to help officials and residents prepare for catastrophic events. 

In response to Hurricane Ida, we’ve activated our online resource, Rx Open, that provides information on the operating status of healthcare facilities in areas impacted by disaster. Rx Open allows residents in the area to use the Facilities Map to search for the individual facilities in cities and counties along the Gulf Coast. Additionally, we’ll be working 24/7 during the hours and weeks ahead to ensure the residents of Ida’s impacted areas, and beyond, have access to the medicines and supplies they need.

As we have all seen, natural disasters are equal opportunity offenders. They hit wealthy and poor communities alike. It’s the level of preparedness among the affected populations prior to the unplanned event that matters. Especially when it comes to communities of color, as we saw with Hurricane Katrina. History has shown these individuals are most often those hardest hit in a crisis, especially during a pandemic that affects all areas of emergency response including evacuation plans, public sheltering and in-person response efforts.

As a nation, we need to minimize the impact of health disparities caused by these crises so that people impacted can thrive afterward. Our NGO partners do the hard work of delivering aid and putting stricken communities back together after these unplanned events. The work we do is centered on helping every city to have emergency preparedness at the forefront of their civic priorities. We are trying to mitigate the need for the Red Cross and others to be called in and activated for disaster response. There’s little doubt that Hurricane Ida will test our collective resolve.

Within hours, Ida is likely to strike the very same area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. We are hopeful that the many systems and structures related to health and emergency preparedness, response, and recovery are robust enough to actively address the inequities and disparate outcomes for all who are impacted by this storm. This response will test and demonstrate the importance of partnerships within the public and private sectors. 

Our hearts and minds are with those in Ida’s path, and all the responders supporting them.