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Hurricane preparedness program expands for 2009 season

Smart preparation is the best defense when a hurricane strikes. Of the 12 storms predicted between June 1 and November 30 this year, forecasters say six will become hurricanes and two will reach Category 3 or more.1 History has shown that low-income, uninsured people are disproportionately affected by damaging hurricanes-and are the same patient population seen at Direct Relief's partner clinics and health centers.

To support healthcare providers caring for vulnerable populations in hurricane-prone areas, Direct Relief International has expanded its three-year-old Hurricane Preparedness Program to additional sites in the United States and abroad. If an emergency strikes, medical aid will be on hand when it's needed most.

Florida, Puerto Rico Join Program

Direct Relief has deployed 25 Hurricane Preparedness Packs to partner clinics and health centers in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, and expanded assistance to new partners in Florida and Puerto Rico this year. Five additional Hurricane Prep Packs stand at the ready at Direct Relief's warehouse in case a hurricane strikes another area. Hurricane Prep Pack recipients are selected for their location, past experience with emergency response, patient population, and capacity to treat victims during an emergency.

Each Hurricane Prep Pack holds enough medical supplies to treat 100 patients for a variety of conditions, from injuries to chronic illnesses, for a 72-hour period. At a wholesale value of almost $12,000, the pack's contents were informed by responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, work with the Texas Blue Ribbon Commission on Emergency Preparedness and Response, and feedback from recipients since the program began in 2007. If a hurricane doesn't strike, pack contents can be easily absorbed into regular clinic inventory to avoid waste.

The waterproof packs are designed to use in clinic settings or at alternate care sites. They are easy to transport during a hurricane, as one recipient demonstrated last year. Coastal Family Health Center in Gulfport, Mississippi, used the Hurricane Prep Pack it received in 2008 aboard its mobile medical unit, which traveled to evacuation shelters in Texas and Louisiana during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Read about Direct Relief's 2008 Hurricane Preparedness and Response.

Caribbean Aid Expanded

Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms often affect vulnerable people in Caribbean island nations before they hit the U.S. This year, Direct Relief has prepositioned eight Hurricane Preparedness Modules in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Larger in scale than the Packs and tailored to international health needs, the modules include a broad spectrum of medical material aid: water purification supplies, oral rehydration solution, basic medicines, and wound-care supplies.

The modules contain supplies to treat up to 1,000 people for a month for a variety of conditions, a provision that allows time to deliver an additional emergency aid consignment. In Haiti in particular, already poor roads become impassible during a hurricane's flooding rains and mudslides, cutting off humanitarian aid deliveries. With prepositioned materials, healthcare providers have critical supplies on hand during an emergency and patients continue to receive the care they need. Like the Prep Packs, a Module's contents can support the ongoing work of healthcare providers and can be readily absorbed into their regular stock if not needed for emergency response.

Direct Relief continues to refine its emergency preparedness efforts both internationally and in the U.S. At the spring 2009 Gulf States Hurricane Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi, Direct Relief staff convened with Emergency Management Department representatives from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi to establish hurricane response plans. As the 2009 hurricane season unfolds, Direct Relief remains ready to respond with emergency medical aid should a hurricane strike.