2001 was a year most of us will never forget and marked a turning point for public health professionals. Beginning with the anthrax mail-based attacks, the possibilty of public health emergencies became very real. For the first time, local public health was summoned to the table of “First Responders” – planning, preparing and training along with police, fire and emergency medical services to respond to sudden threats to public health. Since then we have been developing relationships with our First Responder partners, building our capacity to respond, and developing plans for quickly distributing medication or vaccines in response to a biomedical attack.
While it is important to plan for a manmade situation, natural disasters and severe weather can also result in public health emergencies. This was very clear in 2005 after the widespread destruction of infrastructure in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina. The nation watched as thousands were trapped in dangerous and unsanitary conditions for extended periods of time. As a coastal health department, LLHD knows we are one storm away from large numbers of our residents being in similar circumstances. Our planning considers responses to widespread flooding, shortages of safe food and water, and incapacitated sewage disposal systems.
You can learn more about our planning efforts in the “How We Plan and Prepare” sections. But our efforts are only one part of a community response to a public health emergency. It is important that each family has their own emergency plans and is prepared with supplies of food, water and medication; in the “How You Can Plan and Prepare” section you can find tips and ideas for preparing your household.
While you’re here, please visit our Medical Reserve Corps page. The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) plays a very important role in our planning and response – and we need you! The volunteers on the MRC include medical and public health professionals as well as non-medical community members who train and prepare to assist in the event our community has a public health emergency. Learn more – and consider joining!