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Natural disaster response strategies success dependent on collaboration

Davia Downey screen grab

Each state is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak differently. What works well as a Michigan slowly reopens its economy while keeping the population safe? WGVU spoke a researcher whose focus is American disaster response.

The Emergency Management literature lists four stages of disaster response.

“So, you’ve got your preplanning stage. You’ve got the active disaster stage. You’ve got the recovery stage and then you have the lessons learned stage.”

Davia Downey is a researcher of natural disaster as associate professor of public, nonprofit and health administration at Grand Valley State University. Novel coronavirus is known to spread quickly with high infection and mortality rate. Downey says there are two things governments must do in the response stage.

“They have to lock down the disease so it doesn’t spread and they also need to inform the public about the kinds of things that are useful to mitigate further spread.”

Mitigation in place of a cure or vaccine buying public health experts time for developing, producing and deploying them.

“The mitigation stage is very difficult because we don’t have something in place that will actually eliminate, and or reduce, the spread of the virus absent wearing masks, social distancing, all of the things we’ve been nearing from our state and national government.”

This is the point where leaders look to other regions where responses to the disease have been successful sharing resources and knowledge. And, Downey says we can look at time-based data.

“We will be able to, in five years and 10 years, to look back at how different countries, how different sates, how different actors in the political system called for certain activities to begin or end. Right. And then we would be able to tie those things to how rapidly infections went down. How rapidly deaths go down, etc.”

Downey explains local communities, states and countries collaborating during an evolving disaster do best during its recovery.

I’m Patrick Center.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.