Public Health faculty provides expertise in wake of recent hurricanes

In one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent history, Dr. Warren Eller is aiding in the disaster management efforts.

Eller, an associate professor in Department of Health Policy, Management, and Leadership at the WVU School of Public Health, has consulted with private organizations in Houston, Texas, providing assistance with organizational recovery, continuity of operations, and advising organizations on ways to incorporate spontaneous volunteers in the relief efforts.

He is also working with a research team with colleagues from Arizona State University and the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder who have developed a National Science Foundation RAPID – a funding stream to make resources available for research of an urgent nature and  to capture perishable data from the response – and are providing support to the Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) during the recovery.     

Eller says he hopes their efforts have a lasting impact.

“One of the benefits of applied research is you get to see results in the field, and it has been exciting this season to see the impact of our work,” said Eller.  “I’m hopeful that the lessons we learn researching this year’s hurricane season will aid in further improving our national response capacity.”  

Eller’s expertise in disaster management is based largely on studying the impacts of hurricanes in North America.  Over the last decade, he has been involved in research involving Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike in the gulf region, and much of his research is applied work. His efforts included fieldwork with Louisiana’s State Animal Response Team (SART) that led to the development of programs for the National Disaster Medical System and curriculum in the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. He also facilitated hotwashes – or agency response performance evaluations – for FEMA regions four and six following hurricanes Gustav and Ike that led to National Science Foundation funding for the evaluation of hurricane evacuation. Warren’s has also conducted work supporting the All Hazards Incident Management Association. 

Since coming to West Virginia University School of Public Health in 2013, Dr. Eller has continued his work in disasters with colleagues from Arizona State University’s (ASU) Emergency Management and Homeland Security program and Lauren Branch, a doctoral candidate in the West Virginia University School of Public Health.  This group facilitated the hotwash for the Hurricane Sandy response for the National VOAD) and developed an After Action Review. In addition, Dr. Eller has represented the voluntary nonprofit community on a national advisory committee for Operation Dragon Fire, a National Institutes of Health-funded project to assess the impact of hazards using crowdsourced data.