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.
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.
Pandemic influenza, an aerosolized anthrax attack, a nuclear detonation, chemical or radiological exposure, and other known and emerging threats and disasters are all potential threats to the United States. To combat these, one enterprise - comprising many collaborating federal agencies - is preparing to provide the necessary medical products when and where they are needed.
Once a public health outbreak occurs, it is too late to prepare. In 2014, Ebola highlighted gaps in the nation's preparedness for an unexpected viral threat that gained worldwide attention. Having supplies on hand or knowing how and where to get them when needed is the best way to protect public healthcare workers. The Strategic National Stockpile bridges these public health response gaps.
In a training scenario, a lose-lose situation may make a lasting impression on students, but does little to improve the decision-making skills of the responders. Regularly faced with making life-or-death decisions, emergency responders should receive training that includes no-win as well as winnable alternatives, thus reflecting real-life scenarios while not deflating student confidence.