Skip Navigation
Preparing for the Storm

Andrew Pekosz/John Heuser

Preparing for the Storm

The relatively mild H1N1 flu outbreak in the spring was essentially a two-week dress rehearsal for emergency preparedness and crisis management for Johns Hopkins and other large institutions.

Jon Links, PhDAt Hopkins, the mostly smooth rollout of prevention and preparation measures included broadcasting guidance on flu prevention hygiene, issuing travel guidelines, monitoring student health and creating a temporary flu infirmary for students (which wasn’t ultimately needed). The crisis team is now spending the summer fine-tuning critical components of the emergency response plan in preparation for a possibly more severe return engagement this fall, according to Jonathan Links, PhD ’83, deputy director of CEPAR (Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response) and an Environmental Health Sciences professor. CEPAR is the umbrella organization that oversees crisis planning, policy, coordination and management for the University and health systems.

“While our aspiration might be to maintain all functions,” says Links, “we’re going through the process of defining essential activities and functions and seeking to have plans in place to maintain those.”

On the operations side, he says the key issue is continuity of academics and research if one or more campuses are forced to close for an extended period of time. As only essential personnel will have access to buildings during a closure, Hopkins officials are counting on distance education programs, online data storage and information systems backup to continue programs. To that end, Hopkins emergency preparedness experts are meeting with top officials from all University divisions to provide guidance on having crisis plans in place.

Levels of readiness in this area differ greatly across the University, Links says, noting that the Bloomberg School has the most “robust” online education programs.

“Now there’s more of a sense of urgency about addressing these issues than in the past because they’re more real,” he says.

Administratively, Links says, the primary challenge now is clarifying the “decision-making process,” that is, determining who is involved in critical decisions, like closing dorms or canceling classes. This element of crisis response differs from “on-the-ground” work that occurs once a decision has been made.

“Canceling classes or closing dorms are not simply decisions that can be made solely or even primarily by subject-matter experts who know a lot about infectious diseases or by emergency management people,” Links says. “It’s a decision that has to be made by those with the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for Hopkins, which means the top leadership.”“We need to make sure everyone understands the process,” Links says. “You don’t want to figure it out on the fly as you’re attempting to make the decisions."

To learn more about H1N1, listen to our audio interviews.

design element
Online Extras

Tracking the Pandemic

Tracking the Pandemic

The first reported H1N1 cases in Mexico spread globally with frightening speed. This WHO timeline shows how the virus leaps borders and continents.

Photo Gallery

Talk to Us

Amazed? Enthralled? Disappointed? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts on articles and your ideas for new stories:

Download the PDF

Get a copy of all Feature articles in PDF format. Read stories offline, optimized for printing.

Download Now (8.7MB)