Hurricane Season Ready: Preparedness and Response Resources

Hurricane season has brought two devastating storms to the Gulf Coast, Caribbean and Florida. The impacts of these storms serve as a reminder that the 2,800 local health departments across our nation stand ready to help protect residents and families from all sorts of natural disasters and to play a vital role in any recovery efforts. Local health departments are life-saving first responders to natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and earthquakes, as well as to other public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks, major accidents and terrorist attacks. Their dedicated staffs work year-round to prepare and are on call 24 hours a day, every day, to respond when needed. Following a disaster, public health has a critical role in helping communities recover. Following hurricane and flooding disasters, local health departments are often called upon to conduct enhanced disease surveillance in shelters and their communities, perform environmental health inspections of restaurants, businesses, and homes, assist families returning to the impacted areas get reconnected with social services (e.g., nutrition programs, mental health), and provide a surge of immunizations (e.g., tetnus.)

As the association representing local health departments, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) will continue to assist and support these departments with their response and recovery efforts. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Katia. We extend our appreciation and support to the first responders, public health, emergency management, healthcare and other partners and individuals who will help our communities to respond and recover.

NACCHO has compiled a variety of resources to help local health departments prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes and flooding. The resources provide guidance on topics such as food and water safety, electrical hazards, and helping children cope with disaster.

  • The CDC released an MMWR [1] on September 13 which discusses some of the most common public health and safety concerns following a hurricane. They include: vehicle- and non vehicle-related drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning (e.g., generators), electrocution, falls, lacerations, and exposure to mold and industrial and household chemicals. Additionally, the MMWR reports that exacerbation of existing chronic conditions and development of acute mental health symptoms are frequent reasons for seeking health care services following a disaster. The MMWR includes links to resources for addressing these health concerns.
  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR’s) Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) has a number of resources that may be helpful to jurisdictions currently experiencing or at risk of flooding and flood-related health issues, including hurricane and flooding resources. TRACIE also offers:
  • The National Library of Medicine (NLM’s) Hurricane Portal, has several resources on hurricane health issues, environmental impacts and clean-up, worker and responder safety, and pet preparedness. Many resources are also available in other languages.
  • The Office of Health Affairs’ Community Health Resilience (CHR) Guide and Toolkit can be used to submit and/or receive tools that assist with disaster response and resilience efforts.
  • NACCHO has a resource document and free Psychological First Aid training available to help assist communities in moving forward following a flooding event
  • The state of Minnesota website has a number of behavioral health resources including just-in-time trainings.
  • ESRI has been coordinating with the Red Cross, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, GISCorps and FEMA. They can help with data coordination, technical support and other GIS assistance. To take advantage of Esri’s disaster response program please request assistance or contact the Esri Disaster Response Program.

Many health departments also provide information and resources to their community members and businesses before, during, and after a disaster. Health departments can encourage community members and staff to download the FEMA mobile app for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has compiled information in this document which provides helpful tips for medicare beneficiaries living in an area that has been declared an emergency or disaster. And, health departments can direct local businesses to resources on Ready.gov and the Small Business Administration for business continuity, disaster relief, and recovery information.

Healthcare Ready is activated for Hurricane Harvey recovery and Hurricane Irma response and has several resources to support healthcare organizations and suppliers in impacted areas. They have activated Rx Open for Harvey and Irma to support patients locate open pharmacies in areas impacted by disaster.

NACCHO is activated for Hurricane Harvey and Irma response and recovery and encourages local health officials and others to direct any questions or requests to the NACCHO Preparedness Team. If you are an individual or organization who is interested in contributing to Harvey relief efforts, please see a list of available resources.

This post was updated on September 14, 2017. 

 

[1] Hurricane Season Public Health Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Guidance for Health Care Providers, Response and Recovery Workers, and Affected Communities — CDC, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 13 September 2017. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6637e1

About Katie Dwyer

Katie Schemm Dwyer is a Director in NACCHO's Preparedness Division. Her work focuses on supporting local health departments strengthen public health and healthcare preparedness capacity and capabilities through governance, coordination and liaison with federal preparedness organizations, policy, and program management.

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