Milken Institute SPH Dean Lynn Goldman Testifies Before House Committee on Federal Disaster Response

Lynn R. Goldman, the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University, testified November 29 on Capitol Hill about the findings of a recent study conducted by Milken Institute SPH researchers to estimate the excess mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The hearing by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was held to evaluate the federal government’s response to the 2017 hurricane season, including lessons learned and opportunities to improve the federal natural disaster response.

Dean Goldman told members of Congress and those attending the hearing that the study estimated there were 2,975 lives lost in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Marie—with the poor and the elderly being hardest hit.

“We did find that the communities in Puerto Rico were not adequately prepared for a category 4 hurricane,” Dean Goldman told the committee. Likewise, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had made preparations for only a category 1 or 2 storm. she said, adding: “Clearly Puerto Rico was vulnerable.”

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.”

The independent report published by a team of Milken Institute SPH researchers, including Dean Goldman, included a set of recommendations aimed at helping Puerto Rico and other vulnerable coastal areas worldwide prepare for extreme weather like Hurricane Maria.

Read more about the Milken Institute SPH project to estimate the excess mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria here.

Click here to watch the hearing.