As the emergency response coordinator for the Meigs County Health Department during 12 of the past 14 years, I’ve seen, experienced and planned for many different public health emergency scenarios.
Public health emergencies run a gamut: Smallpox from 2002-03, SARS (2003), Anthrax (2003-05), bird flu, swine flu, H1N1 influenza (2009- 10), Ebola (2014-now) and Zika (2016). These diseases are preventable. The MCHD receives federal funding (from the Centers for Disease Control through the Ohio Department of Health) to develop and implement plans for emergency prevention.
Included in Public Health Emergency Preparedness funding are mandates for improving the MCHD’s infrastructure.
So, what’s that?
A 21st century health department must have the necessary technology to exist in a fast-moving environment. PHEP funds provided, over the years, computers (and related devices), high-speed internet, MCHD website, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephones and faxes, vaccine-specific refrigerators and freezers, mobile trailers (for mobile vaccination clinics), MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communications System) radios, portable generators (for mobile clinics), a large generator for full power to the Meigs Multi-Purpose Building (which houses the MCHD as well as the Meigs County Council on Aging, Meigs TB Clinic and Woodland Centers) and various other minor technologies that are necessary in 2016.
PHEP planning allows us to incorporate our infrastructure with our All-Hazards Emergency Response Plans to serve the people of Meigs County. We work hand-in-hand with the Meigs EMA, the Local Emergency Planning Committee, 9-1-1, Meigs EMS, the sheriff’s office, local fire departments and police. We exercise our plans annually with regional public health partners, the Meigs EMA/LEPC and the regional Healthcare Coalition.
How does this benefit you? MCHD can and has done the following:
- We have effective mass vaccination plans that we exercise each flu season.
- We have effective partners that are part of our mass vaccination plans.
- We have a building that can be used as a refuge during times of no electrical power.
- We house the Ohio Hospital Association’ s BlueMed Tent. It can be a mobile hospital or a mobile command center as MCHD/MEMA used during the aftermath of the 2010 Reedsville tornado.
We also can advise how you can be personally prepared. For example:
- Do you have family contact plan?
- Do you have an accessible stockpile of family prescription and over-the-counter medications?
- Do you have a supply of drinking water in case you have to shelter-in-place?
- Do you have a first aid kit?
- Do you have battery powered radio?
- Do you have flashlights and batteries?
These and other things are essential for survival preparedness. The MCHD has taken planning and preparedness steps for the county’s population, and we hope you have taken personal preparedness steps as well.
Frank Gorscak is emergency response coordinator for the Meigs County Health Department.
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