Public Health Emergency Preparedness
Since the events of September 11, 2001 and the Anthrax scares of October 2001, there has been a great deal of attention on public health’s role in emergency response. Developing appropriate public health response has been on the agenda at the national, state, and local levels. The ability to respond appropriately to emergencies continues to evolve.
Listed are some of the activities to assure adequate public health response:
AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the primary public health resource at the national level. The CDC is involved in disease surveillance and response preparedness. They have developed benchmarks and an identified critical capacities standards to promote appropriate response to public health threats and emergencies at the federal, state and local levels. To access the CDC's Emergency Preparedness and Response page go to: http://emergency.cdc.gov
AT STATE LEVEL:
North Carolina Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHP&R) is within the Division of Public Health in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. PHP&R was created in 2002 with federal grant money. A public health physician is in charge of developing, coordinating, and exercising the state’s capability to respond to natural and manmade disasters. In accomplishing this task PHR&R:
- Provides funding and guidance to local health departments to establish preparedness and response programs.
- Expanded the capacity of the State Laboratory of Public Health to enhance its response capability by increasing its Biosafety Level 3 capability in Raleigh and establishing three regional BSL-2+ labs.
- Another key component is enhanced effective communications. The North Carolina Health Alert Network (NCHAN), a secure internet based alerting system, provides 24/7 flow of critical health information among state and local health departments, hospital emergency departments, and law enforcement officials. Integrated into the NCHAN is NC Hospital Emergency Surveillance System, a pre-hospital emergency medical services data system named PreMIS and the NC Immunization Registry.
- A Public Health Command Center has been created to adequately respond to and coordinate public health events throughout the state.
AT THE LOCAL LEVEL:
To achieve the goals and reach the benchmarks set forth by CDC and NC PHP&R, the Person County Health Department (PCHD) has developed a Preparedness Program. The PCHD Preparedness Program:
Works to ensure compliance with State and federal mandates.
- Develops and updates emergency plans such as the Pandemic Influenza Plan, Continuity of Operations Plan, and Strategic National Stockpile Plan that gives guidance to county wide medical supply distribution in an emergency event. These plans are all part of the overall Person County Emergency Operations Plan.
- Coordinates efforts between county partners and the health department.
- Provides training to county partners and health department staff.
- Ensures redundant communications capability.
The mission of the Person County Preparedness Program is to protect the health and safety of Person County residents by assuring that the necessary preparedness and response capability exists for a natural or manmade disaster.
PERSONAL PREPAREDNESS FOR INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES:
There are simple steps that Americans can take to prepare themselves and their loved ones for emergencies: be informed, make a plan, build a disaster supply kit, and get involved through opportunities that support community preparedness. By gathering supplies to meet basic needs, discussing what to do during an emergency with your family in advance, and being aware of the risks and appropriate actions, you will be better prepared for the unexpected and can help better prepare your community and the country. Please visit www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY to learn more about preparedness activities. Locally we encourage all citizens and businesses to register with CodeRed for local emergency alerts by going to www.personcounty.net or registering with Flu Near You to participate in free public health initiatives.