National Preparedness Month: A Look Back

Preparedness Month_grey_houseEach September, as part of National Preparedness Month, preparedness efforts across the country are celebrated and highlighted. This year, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) chose the theme “Prepare for Everywhere,” which focused on communities of preparedness from the individual to global level. To strengthen the CDC’s preparedness initiative, NACCHO created a Preparedness Pledge campaign where local health departments and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units committed to conducting preparedness activities throughout the month. Overall, a total of 22 local health departments and 9 MRCs from 18 states pledged to conduct preparedness activities throughout the month. At the conclusion of Preparedness Month, NACCHO staff interviewed the pledge participants to discuss stories of success and outstanding preparedness month practices. Featured below are stories from an MRC Unit and local health department that both completed outstanding Preparedness Month practices.

Southwest Utah Medical Reserve Corps Unit

The Southwest Utah MRC located in St. George, Utah under the direction of Megan Church and Paulette Valentine, completed a variety of preparedness activities ranging from a mass dispensing drill and annual flu clinic to an MRC summit and preparedness fair. “The MRC is a huge help to us here at the health department. We are very grateful for their support,” said Megan. In partnership with the health department, the MRC unit supported over 25 flu clinics throughout their county. Their efforts included registering patients, administering vaccines, and providing general logistical support for the events. The unit also partnered with the health department to hold a mass dispensing drill with nearly 2,000 participants. The exercise simulated a real life event where vaccines are administered to residents without having to leaving their cars. The MRC unit played a crucial role in the success of this drill by providing support to the various components of the exercise including nursing tasks, traffic control, and clerical support. The MRC also participated in three preparedness health fairs where they promoted their Preparedness Buddy initiative which connects member of the vulnerable population with trusted neighbors in their community who agree to check on their buddy in an emergency situation.  The unit also attended the annual MRC State Summit which teaches preparedness skills and offers continuing education credits and examples of preparedness social media outreach.

Spokane Regional Health District

Under the direction of Cindy Thompson, Washington’s Spokane Regional Health District signed the Preparedness Pledge in an effort to educate their community members on preparedness and provide information and skills courses to their workforce. “As public health practitioners, we all know the importance of engaging communities, businesses, and partners in preparedness activities, but the more we can take advantage of opportunities like National Preparedness Month and NACCHO’s Preparedness Pledge, the more it enhances our readiness to respond to public health emergencies and other disasters,” said Cindy. To start off Preparedness Month, the health district included preparedness tips in their agency’s internal newsletter and asked employees to locate the district’s emergency preparedness and response plan on the internet and identify and research a specific hazard noted in the plan. The health district also conducted its annual workforce assessment to identify which employees needed First Aid and CPR recertification. In collaboration with the American Red Cross, Medical Reserve Corps, the LDS Church, and the Greater Spokane Emergency Management, the Spokane Regional Health District held a shelter drill where partnership agreements were activated to test the community’s ability to support medical needs of displaced individuals after an emergency. The successful drill received local media attention and served as an opportunity for the district to highlight Preparedness Month. Other district Preparedness Month activities included hosting childhood immunization clinics, coordinating influenza clinics for the homeless, social media messaging outreach, and continuity of operations plan updates.

NACCHO would like to thank all the local health departments and MRC Units that participated in Preparedness Month and made the Preparedness Pledge initiative a success. NACCHO looks forward to participating in Preparedness Month again next year and hopes this experience has inspired innovation and ideas in your own public health preparedness work!

By Madison Ferraro, Senior Program Assistant, NACCHO

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