By Madison Ferraro, NACCHO Senior Program Assistant
Each 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 “The Power of Preparedness”, which focused on preparing globally, preparing to respond, preparing locally, preparing together, and individual preparedness.
In collaboration with the CDC, NACCHO recruited local health departments (LHDs) and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Units to take the “Preparedness Pledge,” by making a commitment to conduct preparedness activities throughout the month. Overall, a total of 13 local health departments and 5 MRCs from 14 states pledged to conduct preparedness activities throughout the month. At the conclusion of Preparedness Month, NACCHO staff interviewed the pledge participants to highlight their successful preparedness month practices. Featured below are stories from a local health department and MRC Unit that both went above and beyond their pledge commitment by leading a number of outstanding Preparedness Month practices.
City of El Paso Department of Public Health, Texas
Under the direction of Angela Mora, Deputy Director of The City of El Paso Department of Public Health, The Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program (PHEP) organized a month long #PrepareAthon campaign to inform their local community about public health and emergency preparedness. April Priest, PHEP Emergency Preparedness Planner, led this year’s #PrepareAthon events and describes the purpose of the initiative below and plans for next year.
“Our goals for the campaign were to increase the number of people who understand which disasters could happen right here in our community, and how they can respond in a way that will keep themselves, and their families safe,” April explained. “Next year we are aiming to develop a more extensive campaign, that will reach more people in our community.”
The #PrepareAthon campaign was launched by participating in a community wide “Dog Day Swimming Event” which included distributing water proof documents bags at a swimming pool event for dogs, while simultaneously providing pet preparedness information at a nearby booth. In the midst of the #PrepareAthon campaign, Armando Saldivar, The Health Department’s Public Affairs Officer, developed a Zika awareness game called “Tip and Toss Trooper Relay Race.” This prevention game is a tool to educate families on how they can avoid mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing, bug repellent, and eradicate mosquitos’ breeding sites by dumping standing water around their homes. In order for participants to become a “Tip and Toss Trooper” they had to complete the following 9 challenges:
- Spray yourself with bug spray;
- Empty water out of flower pots and then stack the flower pots;
- Empty buckets of water and turn the buckets over;
- Put Trash in the trash can and fasten the lid;
- Stack Tires and empty water;
- Turn over Kiddie pool and ensure no remaining water;
- Put on Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants;
- Put Outdoor Toys away in box; and
- Empty pet dishes of old water.
After completion of the challenges, prizes were awarded to participants. Children received a mosquito bite prevention activity book and adults received Zika prevention literature, and a variety of emergency preparedness materials. The great success of the Zika game caught the attention of several community partners who have requested the LHD to bring the “Tip and Toss Relay Challenge” to future local activities.
The #PrepareAthon campaign culminated with LHD staff participating in the Socorro Middle School Career Day. Two members of the PHEP team presented information about public health and emergency preparedness to 115 students. The “Preparedness 101” presentation was aimed at educating and encouraging student interest about career opportunities available in the expanding fields of public health and emergency preparedness. Staff, also facilitated a safety demonstration; where students had to discuss what types of emergencies could occur in El Paso, and how to be prepared for various scenarios. Students then had to identify and explain which items they would need to put in their own emergency preparedness kits. At the end of the presentation, students and faculty, were given brochures with an emergency kit checklist to take home and review with their families.
Clay County Medical Reserve Corps Unit, IL
The “small but mighty” Clay County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit committed to the NACCHO Preparedness Pledge, under the direction of Emily Anderson, by training the County’s MRC workforce.
“In a rural community with a population of about 13,000 residents, the MRC is especially important,” Emily empathized.
The local MRC unit, which was created in 2012, undertook two initiatives during Preparedness Month to educate their volunteers. First, Clay County trained their volunteers in First Aid and CPR. Second, the unit conducted an emergency alert drill using the State of Illinois Rapid Electronic Notification System (SIREN) to test the reliability of their members’ contact information and their ability to respond to the alert. Over 50% of the MRC unit volunteers responded to the alert within 15 minutes of persistent messaging.
NACCHO would like to thank all the local health departments and MRC Units that participated in Preparedness Month and made NACCHO’s Preparedness Pledge initiative a success. Our entire team looks forward to participating in Preparedness Month again next year, and hopes this experience has inspired innovation and ideas for LHDs and MRC Units conducting public health preparedness work, not just in September, but year round, protecting and strengthening our nation’s resilience.