Public Health Preparedness During National Emergency Preparedness Month
By CHHS Research Assistant Maraya Pratt
September is National Preparedness Month, which can effectively serve as a reminder to take the necessary steps early that will adequately prepare you to stay safe during any public emergency or crisis. This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” Just as the nation must ensure that communities as a whole have the support and resources needed to respond and recover, individuals should also take responsibility to ensure both their and their families’ necessary preparation.
Public health is an area that does not immediately come to mind when thinking of emergency preparedness. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently posted a blog with reminders regarding health issues in light of National Preparedness Month. Specifically, they suggest that individuals get their annual flu shot while encouraging others to do the same in order to enhance influenza prevention and control. This is especially true for parents of children with high-risk influence complications – i.e. those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, immunosuppression, or neurodevelopmental disorders. The AAP encourages three-way communication among parents, primary care providers, and specialists.
Like the flu, the emergence of Ebola this past year led to concerns about preparedness on the state and agency level in the wake of a potential widespread outbreak. Pre-hospital and in-hospital handlings of suspected and confirmed Ebola cases are consistently being reevaluated, while the communication of knowledge of the disease needs to be refined. Let National Preparedness Month be a gentle reminder that is important for individuals to stay educated about the disease in question as to not promulgate misinformation. Such an effect can consequently lead to poor implementation of strategies that conform with the misbeliefs rather the actual effects. In light of the need for enhanced outreach and education within local communities for communicable diseases such as Ebola, health departments are taking advantage of grant funding to enhance preparedness messaging.
For general emergency preparedness, the CDC suggests that individuals follow these four steps in order to prepare you and your family for an emergency: (1) get an emergency kit, (2) make a plan, (3) be informed, and (4) get involved. The CDC notes that local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but cannot get to everyone immediately. Individuals should be prepared for at least up to 72 hours with a sufficient food and water supply, adequate medical materials, and electricity backups. Specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that individuals ensure they have adequate prescription medication and glasses/contacts in their kit. FEMA also strongly suggests that individuals should keep copies of their insurance policies in a dry and accessible location.
As for your plan, ensure communication with family and friends prior to a disaster in case you are not together during an emergency. In both public health emergencies and national disasters, it’s critical that you stay informed by checking various news outlets for global, national, and local information. Finally, the CDC suggests getting involved by looking into taking first aid and emergency response training and participating in community exercises.