This paper provides a clear understanding of two main disaster response initiatives: the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program and the State Media Social Sites. To a great extent, the paper discusses the benefits of both programs, and the inherent barriers that affect the delivery of the outcomes envisioned by the framers of the two initiatives. As it shall be seen in the paper, both programs were necessitated by Hurricane Katrina. Despite the minor flaws in the workings of the two programs, the initiatives are a major leap from the past and they have set the bar higher for future disaster response programs.
Although advances in modern technology have made it easy to predict the occurrence of disasters, no one can deny the fact that disasters can strike anywhere at any time. Therefore, the only logical thing for the government to do is to be prepared to handle any degree of disaster. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there have been several efforts made to address the speed of response and nature of communication between the victims, their friends and families. At this point, two programs stand out: Emergency Prescription Assistance Program and State Social Media Sites.
Emergency Prescription Assistance Program
Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) is an initiative aimed at facilitating the processing of prescriptions and durable medical equipment (DME) for eligible individuals within a disaster area. Established by the Strafford Act, the program (EPAP) “allows any enrolled pharmacy within United States and its territories to use the existing electronic pharmacy systems as an infrastructure to efficiently process prescription and DME for individuals that are eligible for the EPAP” (Public Health Emergency, 2013, para 1).
The benefits derived from the EPAP program are two-pronged. On the individual level, people affected by disasters of national significance are able to get the necessary prescription and the durable medical equipment that they require at no cost, while at the federal and state level the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) through EPAP supports disaster mission by providing supplies, limited durable medical equipment and suffieicint personnel for the disaster response operations (Public Health Emergency, 2013, para 3). The supply is given for a 30-day period and this enables the staff on the ground to replace the prescription drugs and any medical equipment lost as a direct result of the emergency. Therefore, individuals facing any acute or chronic conditions caused by disasters of national importance are able to access prescribed drugs and medical equipment within 30 days after the disaster without paying any dime from the pharmacies enrolled into the EPAP.
Barrier to Effectiveness
Despite its noble objective, EPAP faces bureaucracy challenges which affect its effectiveness. For instance, the president has to declare the incident a matter of national significance as required by the Stafford Disaster Relief Act. Once this is done, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) then proceeds to deploy the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). After receiving instructions from FEMA to deploy, HHS then proceeds to activate EPAP for the specific geographical region(s) affected. Apart from the lengthy bureaucracy, eligibility checks carried out by the pharmacists may leave out many legitimate pharmacy claims. Additionally, legitimate pharmacy claims in new pharmacy locations or in out of network pharmacies may not be possible.
As the pundits say, this is the era of information age and there are several social media tools developed to coordinate rescue operations, and facilitate communication between disaster victims, their families and friends. For example, there two Facebook apps (bReddi Facebook App and Project: Lifeline Facebook App) that enable friends and relatives of affected individuals to track them and ensure that they get the basic necessities needed to keep safe and stay health throughout a disaster and recovery. There is also the American Red Cross Safe and Well website that lets friends and family know whether one is safe and well. As long as the registrant is safe and well, a successful safe yields the person’s first name, last name and a brief message. There is also the stay connected with your state initiative which allows one to get informed on preparing for disasters and responding effectively. All the states are covered and instructions are delivered according to the nature of disasters within that state. There is also a database of all the government, voluntary, research and regulatory agencies dealing with disaster management in each state to facilitate rescue operations.
Barrier to Effectiveness
Although the social media sites initiative is noble, it only addresses the information part; there is a lot more that needs to be done in terms of coordinating rescue operations from a central point. Again, the presence of social media sites does not necessarily guarantee faster disaster response which has been a challenge in the past.
The significance of the EPAP and state social media sites cannot be wished away. EPAP fast tracks the process of accessing prescription drugs and medical equipment required by disaster victims, and this is a major improvement from the rescue operations carried out pre-Hurricane Katrina. State social media sites, on the other hand, provide the latest information about the victims to their family and friends and this keeps these complements state efforts to keep the disaster victims safe and healthy. Nevertheless, EPAP and state social media sites have some inherent weaknesses – especially in terms of speeding up the rescue missions- and this is something that needs to be looked into in future programs.
Public Health Emergency . (2013, April 30). Stay Connected. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from
Public Health Emergency:
Public Health Emergency. (2013, July 09). Emergency Prescription Assistance Program
(EPAP). Retrieved July 29, 2013, from Public Health Emergency: