Dr. Lynn R. Goldman, MD, MPH, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW Milken Institute SPH), testified November 29 on Capitol Hill. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held the hearing to evaluate the federal government’s response to the 2017 hurricane season, including lessons learned and opportunities to improve the federal natural disaster response.
Dr. Goldman spoke about the findings of a recent GW Milken Institute SPH study that estimated the excess mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Dr. Goldman told members of Congress that the study estimated 2,975 lives were lost in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
“We did find that the communities in Puerto Rico were not adequately prepared for a category 4 hurricane,” Dean Goldman told the committee. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had prepared for only a category 1 or 2 storm.
“Clearly Puerto Rico was vulnerable,” she added.
Dr. Goldman said that the problems with response and recovery in Puerto Rico, and the resulting increase in deaths, did not evolve overnight.
“For many years, we have failed to adequately prepare for major disasters, across the United States,” she said. “We need to change from a culture of disaster and response to a culture of preparedness and resilience.”