Newberry Notes this week is special. The topic, Emergency Preparedness, was proposed by our guest, Beth Bozard, County Heath Supervisor for S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Region 3, Newberry County Health Department. Also, Roger Hovis, Director of Public Health Preparedness for DHEC Region 3, Blythewood, is an affiliate for discussion of emergency preparedness.
Bozard discuss emergency preparedness.
Emergency preparedness is a process of preparing and planning so as to ensure a coordinated and effective response to natural, technological, or man made disasters. Our S.C. Emergency Management Division has such a plan. The plan establishes the policies and procedures by which the state will coordinate state and federal response to disasters impacting South Carolina’s citizens. In addition, each county and state agency has plans that coordinate with the state plan and with each other.
The purpose of the plans: reduce the vulnerability of people and communities, warn of impending danger, support local government disaster operations, keep affected residents informed about situations, coordinate and direct restoration and recovery operations when local government resources are exhausted and assess local needs and coordinate support from outside areas.
• What is public health preparedness?
Public health preparedness is being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats and is critical for protecting and securing our state’s and our nation’s public health. Public health preparedness involves all areas of the DHEC. Within DHEC emergency management and response functions are integrated into each program and into each employee’s job duties. These functions must be coordinated with the other state and local agencies and organizations involved in emergency preparedness and operations. This is done largely through joint planning and exercises carried out under the State Emergency Operations Plan.
• With so many agencies and people involved in emergency response, how does each agency know what they need to do?
South Carolina Emergency Management Division maintains plans for all types of emergencies. Each agency has their own internal plan of how their employees will carry out their agency’s assigned responsibilities and duties. DHEC is considered the lead agency for health/medical emergencies, such as disease outbreaks or release of radiation or toxic substance exposures (either intended or by accident).
Hovis answers the following questions about preparing employees for working in emergencies.
“First of all we have plans in place for nearly every situation imaginable. DHEC employees, as well as staff of other state and local agencies are provided on-going training to assure that everyone will be able to fulfill their responsibilities. Periodically we have exercises and drills for employees to put their knowledge and skills into practice. In addition, when possible, the duties assigned for emergency response usually correlates with the employees’ area of expertise. For example, nurses will be assessing victims for problems or administering or dispensing medications and clerks will handle record keeping,” said Hovis.
• What can individuals do to prepare for an emergency?
First, be informed. If severe weather is predicted, listen to local TV and/or radio for the latest information.
Second, have a family disaster plan and practice it. Learning what to do in different situations and developing and customizing your plans for your local hazards, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members, including animals, will help you reduce the impact of disasters and may save lives and prevent injuries.
It is important to understand the risks that your family faces. You will need to develop an evacuation and shelter-in-place plan as well as a communication plan.
The American Red Cross recommends that at least one member of every household should be trained in first aid and CPR. The Red Cross website also has disaster specific information to help you plan for different kinds of emergencies. There are many resources that can help you to determine the risks that you and your family may face.
FEMA and the American Red Cross have two very useful websites that can help you with this: www.ready.gov and www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster.
Third, build a kit for disasters to be prepared. An emergency kit is simply all of the items you will need to carry out vital functions in the hours after an incident. This means you will need food, water, medicines and other supplies for at least 72 hours. Since you may need the kit at a moment’s notice, assemble your kit and keep it up to date.
DHEC’s website has a list of suggested supplies for an emergency kit. Some of the items include: cash or travelers checks, a battery operated radio and a flashlight per person with spare batteries, a week’s supply of water (one gallon per person per day), a fire extinguisher, a week’s supply of non-perishable food, plus any necessary utensils, plastic containers for dry foods, duct tape, matches, prescription medications, a first aid kit, rain gear, trash bags, pet food, insect repellent, ice and cooler, plastic tarps, unscented, regular strength bleach or other water purification aids, paper towels, moist towelettes, duct tape, important documents stored in a waterproof container (these documents should include immunization records, passports, wills, insurance policies, deeds, contracts, stocks and bonds, social security cards and birth certificates), bedding or sleeping bags, extra clothing, paper and pen, basic tool kit, personal hygiene and toiletry items, cleaning supplies.
For babies, the following is recommended: formula (preferably pre-prepared), diapers, bottles, powdered milk, baby food and medications.
Adults should ask their doctor about storing prescription medications, denture needs, contact lenses and supplies.
Also consider the special needs of the elderly and persons with special illnesses or disabilities.
To see the complete list, go to www.scdhec.gov.
Note: This is part one of Newberry Notes by Margaret Brackett. Look for the second half in the Oct. 24’s paper.