Emergency Preparedness & Response
The Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (PHEPR) Section was created to prepare and respond to public health threats and emergencies from various sources, such as:
- Natural Disasters: Floods, Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Severe weather conditions, and Wildfires
- Disease Outbreaks: Communicable diseases - such as severe flu epidemics; Environmental diseases - such as food-borne illness outbreaks (Salmonella, etc.) and zoonotic disease outbreaks (Rabies, West Nile virus, etc.)
- Bioterrorism Events: Use of biological agents such as smallpox or anthrax.
- Chemical Terrorism Events: Use of chemical agents such as sarin, cyanide, VX, or mustard gas.
The PHEPR Program has several focus areas including but not limited to:
- Planning and Readiness Activities
- The PHEPR Program is also developing a risk communication plan that will keep the public informed during a public health emergency such as a bioterrorism event. The plan includes various ways to provide consistent information to the media and public in order to share valuable information and address concerns. Activities include:
- Development and Distribution of Public Service Announcements
- Development of a risk communication plan
- Establishing relationships with various media outlet contacts
- Education and Training
If you are an employer, make sure your workplace has a building evacuation plan that is regularly practiced.
- Prepare your business for the unthinkable, and create an emergency plan.
- Take a critical look at your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system to determine if it is secure or if it could feasibly be upgraded to better filter potential contaminants, and be sure you know how to turn it off if you need to.
- Think about what to do if your employees can't go home.
- Make sure you have appropriate supplies on hand.
- Create a Supply Kit
- Depending on the situation, you could be asked to evacuate or to shelter in place. It is best to be prepared for either occurrence.
Depending on the situation you could be asked to evacuate or to shelter in place. It is best to be prepared for either occurrence. Have the following prepared in advance:
- Disaster Supply Kit in an Easy-To-Carry Container
- Evacuation Plan
- Emergency Communication Plan
- Knowledge of How to Shut Off Utilities at the Main Switch
Your supply kit should be stocked with the following six basics:
- Water (at least a three-day supply of one gallon per person per day)
- Food (non-perishable, no preparation needed)
- First Aid Supplies
- Tools and Emergency Supplies
- Clothing and Bedding
- Special Items (prescription medication, important documents, etc.)
Important information for pet owners:
- Do not leave your pets behind. Plan ahead to find shelters or hotels that will take animals
- Public shelters will not accept pets, find a relative or friend to take in your pet
- Bring proof of recent vaccinations along with food, water, and a leash
Other preparations you can make that can help keep you and your family healthy include:
- Getting a Yearly Influenza Vaccine
- Keeping Your Immunizations Current
- Washing Your Hands Often
For more information about preparing for an emergency situation please visit the following websites. They have a wealth of detailed information to help you create an emergency preparedness plan.
- A question often asked by the public in response to a bioterrorism event is: How can I prepare?
Since it is very difficult to know when and where a bioterrorism event will occur, it is best to prepare quick and effective responses to potential events. Preparedness planning for any emergency event will also better prepare you for a bioterrorism event. The following information and links provide useful information in helping the public prepare.
- Are health department labs equipped / capable of doing testing?
CDC, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and other officials are working together to ensure that all state health departments are capable of obtaining results of tests on suspected infectious agents. The nation's laboratories are generally classified as Level A, B, C, or D. Level A laboratories are those typically found in community hospitals and are designated to perform initial testing on all clinical specimens. Public health laboratories are usually Level B; these laboratories can confirm or refute preliminary test results and can usually perform antimicrobial susceptibility tests. Level C laboratories, which are reference facilities and can be public health laboratories, perform more rapid identification tests. Level D laboratories are designed to perform the most sophisticated tests and are located in federal facilities such as CDC. CDC is currently working with public and private laboratory partners to develop a formal National Laboratory System linking all four Levels.
Every state has a Laboratory Response Network (LRN) contact. The LRN links to state and local public health laboratories with advanced-capacity laboratories, including clinical, military, veterinary, agricultural, water, and food-testing laboratories.
- Does every city have an adequate emergency response system, especially one geared for a bioterrorist attack? How quickly can it be implemented?
The emergency response system varies from community to community on the basis of each community's investment in its public health infrastructure. Some components of these emergency systems can be implemented very quickly, while others may take longer.
- Are hospitals prepared to handle a sudden surge in demand for health care?
The preparedness level in hospitals depends on the biological agent used in an attack. Because a sudden surge in demand could overwhelm an individual hospital's resources, hospitals collaborate with other hospitals in their area in order to respond to a bioterrorist attack on a citywide or regional basis. Hospitals are required to maintain disaster response plans and to practice applying them as part of their accreditation process. Many components of such plans are useful in responding to bioterrorism. Specific plans for bioterrorism have been added to the latest accreditation requirements of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. In an emergency, local medical care capacity will be supplemented with federal resources.
- What should I do to be prepared?
We continue to hear stories of the public buying gas masks and hoarding medicine in anticipation of a possible bioterrorist or chemical attack. We do not recommend it either. As Secretary Thompson said recently, people should not be scared into thinking they need a gas mask. In the event of a public health emergency, local and state health departments will inform the public about the actions individuals need to take.
- With all this talk about possible biochemical agents, just how safe is our water? Should I be disinfecting my water just in case?
The United States public water supply system is one of the safest in the world. The general public should continue to drink and use water just as they would under normal conditions. Your local water treatment supplier and local governments are on the alert for any unusual activity and will notify you immediately in the event of any public health threat. At this point, we have no reason to believe that additional measures need to be taken.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the lead federal agency that makes recommendations about water utility issues. The EPA is working closely with the CDC and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy to help water agencies assess their systems, determine actions that need to be taken to guard against possible attack and develop emergency response plans. For more information, visit the EPA Safe Water website.
If you are a parent, or guardian of an elderly or disabled adult, make sure schools and daycare providers have emergency response plans.
- Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
- Ask if they store adequate food, water, and other basic supplies.
- Find out if they are prepared to shelter-in-place if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away.
Because many of the diseases associated with bioterrorism are relatively rare, many medical professionals have never seen a clinical presentation of these diseases. Medical professionals, hospital staff, and especially emergency room staff are expected to be the first to come in contact with victims of a bioterrorism event and are critical in the detection of an outbreak. The PHEPR Program is continuously working to provide resources that will help train medical professionals to recognize symptoms that would indicate these suspect diseases.
Be prepared! During an emergency, healthcare workers will need to be available to care for patients. Being prepared will make it easier for you to deal with emergencies.
What would you do if you had to stay at the office for several days?
- Have emergency food and water, clothes, and bedding in your trunk.
- Have emergency supplies in your office.
- Protecting you and your family.
What would your family do if you could not get home for several days?
- Devise an emergency plan.
- Protecting you and your family.
What would your office staff do if they could not get home from the office for several days?
- Personal Workplace Disaster Supplies Kit.
- Preparing Your Business For the Unthinkable.