NACCHO Joins CDC Effort for National Preparedness Month

lamar-hasbrouck-headshot-2015By NACCHO Executive Director LaMar Hasbrouck, MD, MPH

The anniversaries of catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are important reminders that government and public health organizations must have resources in place to respond to emergencies and disasters that have an impact on the nation’s health.  Each September, preparedness efforts and activities are highlighted and encouraged through National Preparedness Month. Through efforts like the annual Preparedness Summit, various preparedness workgroups, and the creation of tools and resources, NACCHO works with local health departments to enhance their readiness to respond to public health emergencies and other disasters.

This September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) theme for National Preparedness Month is “Prepare for Everywhere,” with each week focusing on different groups and communities, from individual families to global health security.

NACCHO encourages local health departments to take advantage of Preparedness Month to engage families, communities, businesses, and other regional partners in preparedness activities. NACCHO launched a Preparedness Pledge program to rally local health departments and Medical Reserve Corps units that are committed to increasing preparedness in their communities. Local health department staff and volunteers can take the NACCHO Preparedness Pledge by filling out a short survey to document the activities their health department will do as part of Preparedness Month. All those who pledge will receive a certificate acknowledging their efforts, and organizations that demonstrate outstanding commitment to their Preparedness Month efforts will be featured on NACCHO’s Preparedness Brief blog.

Like many health departments and Medical Reserve Corps units across the country, NACCHO decided to take its own Preparedness Pledge by hosting an event for each of the CDC’s weekly themes.

During the first week of the month, which focuses on family preparedness, representatives from the Washington, DC Department of Health came to give tips to NACCHO employees on how to ensure their families are ready for a myriad of events. They advised that each family should have enough water and food to last for three days, as well as extra clothes, necessary medicines, and candles in the event of a power outage. They told stories of the flooding of a DC neighborhood and how the community came together to care for the needs of their neighbors in need.

The second CDC theme focuses on community resilience and preparedness on a neighborhood and community level. NACCHO partnered with the local American Red Cross chapter to organize an employee blood drive. The American Red Cross estimates that more than 41,000 patients need donated blood per day, an amount that would multiply drastically in the event of a health disaster.

NACCHO will continue to participate with the CDC’s preparedness themes throughout the rest of the month, hosting several other employee trainings. As an association that works closely with public health officials to encourage preparedness at the local level, we decided to retrain our team on our concept of operations (ConOps) and crisis emergency and risk communications (CERC) plans. In the event of a public health emergency, NACCHO stands as a resource for local health departments. Using these preparedness plans, we will help local health departments communicate effectively to their constituents.

Finally, the fourth week of CDC’s Preparedness Month themes encourages global health security in an ever interconnected planet where infectious diseases are able to travel rapidly. The Loudon County (VA) Medical Reserve Corps unit will train NACCHO staff on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Incident Command System, a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response, providing a common hierarchy for responders from multiple agencies.

NACCHO is eager to hear from local health departments about their preparedness efforts during this month. We’ll be sharing our activities and those of Medical Reserve Corps units, local health departments, and guest blogs from the CDC on our Preparedness Brief blog. Share your organization’s Preparedness Month activities using the #PrepPledge hashtag or through NACCHO’s Stories from the Field website.

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