Although many lessons have been learned from Ebola and other infectious diseases, planning needs are quickly diverted when the previous threat is overshadowed by another emerging or re-emerging disease, or other homeland security threat. However, without adequate prioritization, planning, and preparedness, the nation may be set for failure when the next unexpected threat presents.
Civilian responders have successfully acquired many skills that were originally developed by military services. Situational awareness is one such skill that would be beneficial to adapt to the civilian members of the emergency medical services. Maintaining a heightened sense of awareness would help responders stay "in the loop."
In the first week of December 2015, more than 1,000 professionals in healthcare-related organizations, emergency management agencies, public health departments, emergency medical services (EMS), nongovernmental organizations, and academia met in San Diego, California, to discuss ways to bolster partnerships within and between these disparate groups.
When one peanut has the ability to kill, it is necessary to examine the practices and procedures used in public yet confined spaces such as emergency shelters. By following simple steps, emergency managers are able to perform shelter operations while limiting exposure to allergens and contaminants that could turn a safe haven into an exposure risk.
A new federal resource equips healthcare providers with a valuable information repository. This resource also offers a way to request technical assistance and provides a forum for peer-to-peer discussions. Decontamination is just one of the many in-depth topics addressed by subject matter experts in the healthcare field.
Public health's role is often synonymous with biological events such as Ebola, H1N1, and SARS, but the field of public health offers many capabilities that are relevant to chemical, radiological, nuclear, and explosive events as well. To leverage these capabilities, a joint effort from the federal, state, and local levels must make public health a national priority.
Public health professionals fill vital roles in homeland security preparedness. One of these roles is to ensure that government decision makers are well informed on issues that may affect the life and health of - perhaps not all, but at least most of - their community members.
Public health agencies at all levels have extensive experience recovering from disasters, mostly without the benefit of a pre-disaster recovery plan. Established guidance from a number of federal agencies coupled with an inclusive planning process can help public health agencies ensure that they and the critical services they provide are resilient after a disaster.
Public health departments play, or have the ability to play, a key role in large-scale incidents caused by hazardous materials. By clearly defining their roles and collaborating with local partners, health departments have the ability to help emergency planners and responders prevent, mitigate, plan for, and respond to chemical hazards and incidents.
In the relatively young subspecialty of public health emergency preparedness, effective public health preparedness managers must identify the essential elements of their roles and the skills or requirements necessary to be effective in their positions. Although there is no set recipe for success, diverse and field-related skills are a must.