After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, our nation’s leaders realized that the normal emergency response system, which includes fire departments, law enforcement, and EMS, to mention a few, can be quickly overwhelmed when faced with the reality of a large-scale event. The call went out to non-traditional agencies to step forward in an emergency and provide expertise when it is most needed.
And for the first time in our history, our country was faced with an enemy that was willing to take any step to destroy our country. These steps could include the release of deadly toxins and diseases – bioterrorism.
One of the professions that answered this call was Public Health. In any emergency event there are components that are best handled by Public Health Professionals with the unique skills and talents that we possess.
Rather than responding to a fire, an auto accident, or an explosion site, the goal of Public Health is to prevent further illness and injury. If we can do this, we can greatly lower the impact the disaster will have on our families, neighbors, and communities. Our profession was asked to step forward to look into what could happen next. What illness can be caused by the emergency? What injury can we prevent by looking at the damage that has already been done, and stopping further damage? What affect has the emergency had on our community’s water, sanitation, and food systems? What medications do we need to deliver to protect our community from potential sickness caused by a disruption in our infrastructure?
Since 9/11, the Public Health system has been in the process of developing plans to respond to these emergencies, and we have tested these plans through exercises and drills that provide us with the opportunity to find and correct deficiencies before we are faced with a real-life need to act.
Schuyler County Health Department has worked diligently to answer that call. With input from our emergency response partners, plans have been written, exercised, and updated. Relationships were established with emergency management leaders and responders. And those valuable relationships continue to be developed and nurtured. More than ever before, Schuyler County has built on its already thriving system of responding to our citizens when an emergency strikes, and we continue to identify our strengths and weaknesses in an effort to build on that system.
We welcome questions and input from all of our partners in the community – the people we call our neighbors, friends and families. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to know more about any of the following issues:
• Family Emergency Preparedness
• Special Needs Preparedness
• Floods, tornadoes and storms
For additional information on emergency preparedness and response, visit www.ready.illinois.gov.