ERC Regional Symposium: March 22, 2019
Written by: Nick Grisso, University of Cincinnati ERC Student
On March 22, 2019, the University of Cincinnati hosted the 4th Annual Regional Education and Research Center (ERC) Symposium. The symposium included ERC students and faculty from the University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Kentucky and University of Michigan and representatives of the National Institute for Occupational safety and Health (NIOSH) Training Program Grant from Purdue University. The topic for this years symposium was “Occupational Safety and Health in Disaster Response” and included speakers, research and practical application discussions, a poster session, and a tour of NIOSH’s emergency response vehicle (below).
Conference Session 1: Panel on Practical Applications in Occupational Safety and Health in Disaster Response.
The first session featured an interdisciplinary panel that discussed the practical application of occupational safety and health in disaster response and the importance of interdisciplinary communication. The panel of experts included: Cpt. Lisa Delaney, Associate Director for Emergency Preparedness and Response at NIOSH, John Morawetz, Director at the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) Center for Worker Health & Safety Education, William Jetter, Chief Command Officer of the Monroe Township Fire Department, Dr. Sarah Taft, Associate Division Director at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. Mark Johnson, Assistant Director of Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Panelists from session 1: (standing from left) Dr. Sarah Taft, Dr. Susan Buchanan (session chair), John Morawetz; (seated from left) Cpt. Lisa Delaney, Chief William Jetter, and Dr. Mark Johnson.
Cpt. Delaney began the panel by giving an overview of the national response to disasters through the National Response Framework (NRF). Cpt. Delaney explained that a single agency does not have the resources needed to properly ensure the safety and health of responders during a disaster and that an interdisciplinary approach, such as the NRF is needed. The NRF consists of five different frameworks; protection, mitigation, response, recovery, and prevention, that work together interdisciplinary to achieve the National Preparedness Goal to create “a secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk”. These five frameworks communicate effectively through the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) which are a shared standardization of organizational structures that are built to be scalable, flexible, and adaptable to any disaster.
In the second half of this session, each individual panel member discussed their background and experiences in disaster situations and their overall role in the NRF. This discussion supported the explanation made by Cpt. Delaney earlier that there are too many variables in disaster response for one agency or framework. This was followed by a discussion on the importance of communication between the different frameworks during disaster response, where Chief Command Officer Jetter explained the importance of conducting training exercises that involved all agencies so that they are prepared for when a disaster occurs.
Conference Session 2: Research in Occupational Safety and Health in Disaster Response
The topic of the second session was research in occupational safety and health in disaster response, which was a contrast to the first session of the day where the applications of the research were the highlight. This session featured presentations by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan from NIOSH, Dr. Sue Anne Bell from the University of Michigan School of Nursing, and Dr. Wayne Sanderson from the University of Kentucky.
The first presentation of the session was titled “Overview of the NIOSH Disaster Science Responder Research Program (DSRR)” and was presented by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan from NIOSH. The DSRR is a research program at NIOSH with the goals of identifying critical areas of research that can improve the health of disaster responders and address the major challenges associated with conducting research during disasters. Dr. Whelan shared the state of about eight current research projects ongoing at NIOSH. Two projects I found to be particularly interesting were: (1) a risk assessment tool for selecting PPE during an infectious disease outbreak through the use of hazard banding or assumptions that are based on past experiences and (2) the development of a rapid fit-testing method of N95 respirators during a disaster response.
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan presents in Session 2 on Overview of the NIOSH Disaster Science Responder Research Program (DSRR)
The second presentation of the session was titled “Older Adults in the Eye of the Storm: Research and Practice to Improve Health of Seniors after a Disaster” and was presented by Dr. Sue Anne Bell from the University of Michigan. Dr. Bell explained that one of the most vulnerable populations during a disaster is the volunteer population as they might not have the same safety and health training as state/local or federal responders. The majority of volunteers are individuals that have the time and flexibility to respond, which in many cases are older and elderly adults. Conditions during a disaster and disaster response are hash and strenuous to individuals involved and can be a hazard to vulnerable populations such as the elderly. Dr. Bell and her group found that the risk of vulnerable populations during disaster situations is difficult to assess, primarily due to the inadequate surveillance system for volunteers.
The third presentation of the session was titled “K-PHAST – Preparing Students to Support State-Based Emergency Response” and was presented by Dr. Wayne Sanderson (left) from the University of Kentucky. K-PHAST (Kentucky – Public Health Assistance Team) is a joint program between the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) that allows students to get in-field training and experience while also helping the KDPH If students wish to volunteer to participate in this program they are given training through FEMA and the University of Kentucky and placed on a roster. When the Kentucky Department of Public Health needs extra people they will contact the university and students will be selected off the roster to assist the KDPH. The program has already found success with students from the University of Kentucky assisting in data collection regarding a potential rabies outbreak and environmental arsenic exposure.
Keynote Address: Efforts to Promote Vital Data Collection and Research in Response to Disasters
The keynote address was given by Dr. Aubrey Miller and was titled “Efforts to Promote Vital Data Collection and Research in Response to Disasters”. Dr. Miller is a Captain in the US Public Health Service, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is board certified in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. He is currently the Senior Medical Advisor to the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He currently leads the NIH Disaster Research Response (DR2) Program which focuses on improving national and international disaster research capabilities through enhancing policies, infrastructure, training, and integration of stakeholders, especially academia.
The keynote address (left) described the importance of data collection during a disaster and the current problems and potential solutions with collecting data during the disaster period. With the increasing number of disasters over the past few years, there is a greater need for health data regarding disasters to protect responders. Data collection can be easily conducted during the preparedness and recovery stages of a disaster; however, data collection during the disaster period is difficult to obtain leading to a large data gap. These difficulties include low funding, slow Institutional Review Board (IRB) review, ethical issues, a lack of ready-to-go resources, and a lack of community stakeholders. Potentially the most problematic issue regarding data collection during a disaster is the time it takes for an IRB review. By the time the IRB review is finished the critical window for data collection during the disaster has past. One of the potential solutions offered by Dr. Aubrey Miller was the NIH RAPIDD (Rapid Acquisition of Post-Incident Disaster Data) Protocol. The NIH RAPIDD Protocol is IRB protocol submission that can be submitted and approved through the IRB in a fast timeframe. In the event of a disaster, researchers can customize their IRB submissions to the specific disaster using pre-drafted and pre-approved IRB sections to match their specific data collection goals. By having the IRB submissions pre-drafted and pre-approved researchers are able to enter data collection for a disaster considerably faster and collect data they might not otherwise have been able to collect.
The 3 sessions were followed by two poster sessions and an opportunity to tour the NIOSH emergency response vehicle. There were 18 total posters representing research from the University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin Madison, and Purdue University. The attendees voted on their favorite poster and the two winners were; “Assessing Insulin Exposure During Pharmaceutical Manufacturing” by Michael Begin from University of Michigan and “Supporting Surgical Teams: Identifying Needs and Barriers for Exoskeleton Implementation” by Jackie Cha from Purdue University (pictured to the right with Dr. Tiina Reponen).
Attendees were then invited to a group dinner at the Newport, KY Hofbrauhaus to continue networking as well as a tour of the Cincinnati Fire Museum on Saturday morning (pictured below).
Thank you to all who were able to attend, present, and share their ideas. It was a successful symposium and as always, a great opportunity for regional ERCs to meet. We look forward to next year’s!