Media turns to CHHS during earthquake, Irene and upcoming 9/11 anniversary coverage

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From turbulent tremors to violent winds to taking stock of our post-9/11 world, the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security continues to be a source of analysis and expertise on breaking news and special events for local and national media. The past week, and the week ahead, exemplify that as CHHS senior staff is providing insightful comments on the East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

THE EAST COAST ‘QUAKE

Moments after a central Virginia fault line shifted, and sent shockwaves through the northern East Coast at 1:51 PM Wednesday August 24th, CHHS Director Michael Greenberger was one of the first experts interviewed by WTOP News Radio in Washington, D.C. Greenberger told reporter Kate Ryan the effects of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake could last for days because of the unknown aftermath with regard to utility and power line damage and repair. Greenberger pointed out that municipalities and contractors would have to inspect multiple bridges and buildings for cracks or fallen debris. The University of Maryland School of Law professor said while much attention has been paid to disaster response, there’s a lot of room for funding and refinement of plans and equipment.

In the coming hours, CHHS Associate Director and School of Law grad Adrian Wilairat would be live on local Washington, D.C. television giving his analysis of the earthquake’s impact on response and future preparedness. During his interviews with WUSA-TV (CBS) and WTTG-TV (FOX), Wilairat said the quake is a wake-up call. “It’s a great opportunity for agencies to conduct self-assessments, meet with their partner agencies and with their partners in the private sector and take stock. Are we prepared? How great of a threat do we face with an earthquake of a greater magnitude in this region? At the Center for Health and Homeland Security, we stress all hazards planning. That means that agencies need to have plans that are flexible enough to be useful in any type of disaster.”

CHHS Senior Policy Analyst Christina Crue was later quoted in The Washington Post about re-thinking emergency preparedness and creating instinctual response to an earthquake. There were widespread reports of people not knowing what to do during the 10-20 seconds of pure terror. Crue told The Post’s Emi Kolawole, “This event is an opportunity not only for public officials to educate the community, but for individuals to take a proactive stance for earthquakes and all hazards.” Crue also emphasized the need to have a household disaster plan, knowing how to be self-sufficient in the first 72 hours, having a radio handy and stockpiling supplies like food and water.

KEEPING AN ‘EYE’ ON IRENE

Roughly 48 hours after the ground shook violently, our attention turned skyward. Hurricane Irene began her slow journey up the East Coast packing winds of more than 100 miles per hour. As millions took notice of Irene’s potential wrath, WBAL-TV called upon CHHS Associate Director Adrian Wilairat for advice on how to weather this storm. On the eve of Irene’s expected arrival in the Mid-Atlantic, Wilairat said people should not wait to stock up the “simple things” such as: food, water, batteries. Residents, he said, should be prepared to be without power for at least 72 hours—which ended up being the case for hundreds of thousands in Maryland alone!

Irene’s devastating aftermath has conjured up many questions about emergency preparedness, response and recovery—how it works, who is involved and the challenges ahead. CHHS Director Michael Greenberger was asked to explore these issues on C-SPAN’s live call-in show “Washington Journal”. For 40 minutes, Greenberger explained how local, state and federal emergency managers and first responders coordinate plans to evacuate and ultimately shelter people, how they try to mitigate the impact of floods or power outages. Greenberger also pointed out how CHHS staff act as consultants to emergency management offices to make sure they prepare, respond and recover the best way possible. Funding these efforts is one of the big challenges Hurricane Irene presents. Greenberger suggests future catastrophes may hit us harder as FEMA budget constraints will hamper the ability of first responders to have the tools or personnel they need to save lives and the ability of the federal government to provide aftermath assistance.

9/11: NEVER FORGET

CHHS is scheduled to play a major role in helping the public understand how much this country has changed 10 years since four hi-jacked commercial airliners killed more than 3,000 people when they crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Director Michael Greenberger’s analysis of past, present and future efforts to keep our nation safe from terror attacks is scheduled to be featured in media outlets nationwide as the anniversary approaches.

All of this proves the media continues to turn to the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security for reliable expert analysis and perspective when it comes to issues affecting the safety and security of the world around us.

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