October 4, 2010

PACER receives $6 mill Homeland Security grant

The National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response, also known as PACER, at The Johns Hopkins University has received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fund more than a dozen national security–related research, education, training and policy support projects over the next two years.

The grant award represents the second time DHS has provided major funding support for PACER and its efforts to improve and enhance security in the United States.

Gabor Kelen, the director of PACER and chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine, said he is gratified by the continued funding support from DHS because it underscores PACER’s leading role in advancing the field of medical and public health preparedness and response nationwide.

Kelen said that the new grant from DHS will support a number of critical and exciting PACER projects that hold the potential for significantly improving how the nation’s hospitals and other health care resources prepare for and respond to major disasters with the potential for large-scale casualties.

Among the many key projects that will move forward with the DHS grant support:

• Continuing development of new groundbreaking computer-based 3-D simulation models showing how people and complex social systems might react to major catastrophes.

• Creating the first-ever professional society dedicated to disaster health.

• Developing an advanced version of EMCAPS, a PACER software program designed to help hospitals and disaster planners determine staffing and resources they will need for a wide range of disasters.

• Evaluating rapid-testing technology now in development to see if it would help health officials spot respiratory infectious disease outbreaks faster so that they can allocate proper resources and prepare for a potential epidemic earlier.

• Exploring whether emerging new tracking, or “surveillance,” of infectious diseases via Internet-based networks such as Google Flu are reliable enough for emergency departments and others to use as early warning signals of impending outbreaks.

As part of its strategy to enhance national security, PACER has developed partnerships for its efforts with a number of other major universities, colleges and federal agencies, including Columbia, Vanderbilt and Howard universities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The PACER Center was established in 2005 with the help of a major multiyear grant from DHS and the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. It has been named a Center of Excellence, a designation awarded by DHS to a limited number of academic-based centers with leading national security researchers and experts.

For more information on PACER, go to www.pacercenter.org.