When Disaster Strikes


My thoughts are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, and I am deeply sympathetic to the struggles of those who continue to feel the aftermath of this destructive storm. The immediate and long term economic and emotional costs of natural disasters such as Sandy can be overwhelming.

Among the many groups affected by these types of events are the people and animals supported by NIH funding. Undoubtedly the loss of lives is of greatest concern, but the loss of years of research materials and data can be devastating and severely set back research progress.

NIH leadership understands that no amount of planning can fully prepare researchers for losses due to natural disasters, and we are committed to doing what we can to help the research community pick up the pieces after catastrophic events. We regularly work with other divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies (such as FEMA and the Office of Management and Budget) to coordinate a response. We take into consideration issues such as whether a federal disaster is declared; the severity of damage inflicted; the length of time an institution may be required to close or that is required for recovery; the impact on investigators, human research subjects, and animal subjects; and the overall impact on the community. Actions are taken on a case by case basis.

You may have seen the notice that NIH issued last Friday in advance of the storm that describes how NIH handles grant application submissions that are delayed due to the hurricane. Although we often issue a notice for major weather incidents, please know this policy is always in effect whether or not we issue a specific Guide notice.

NIH will be keeping on top of any impact of the hurricane on NIH supported research to assure that ongoing projects can be successfully completed. I advise grantees whose research is impacted by the storm to contact the NIH grants management or program official listed in their Notice of Award (NoA) to let them know your status.

My office maintains a website on  NIH extramural response to disasters and emergencies that you may find to be a valuable resource. Relevant NIH Guide notices are posted and archived on this page, and other resources, such as emergency contact information and links to disaster and preparedness websites of other science-funding agencies, can be found here as well. I hope you never have any reason to visit this page, but if crisis strikes, I want you to know where to find information that can help you.

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