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Partners in Preparedness

Volume 2 Issue 3

Partnerships: Building Prepared, Resilient Communities!

Michele McMahon RN, BSN, EMHP
Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments

Developing strong partnerships is an essential component for building strong, resilient, and sustainable communities! Effective partnerships are built on trust, respect, and shared goals.  Participation and collaboration are key components. Partners share and exchange ideas, knowledge and expertise – things that are critical to the design of effective emergency response programs. We rely on each other and the areas where we know there are subject matter experts.

In the event of an emergency, we know it will take the entire emergency preparedness and response community to respond and rebuild effectively. With sequestration and budget cutbacks, the only way to achieve the capacity to respond to our community needs is to partner with our community agencies, organizations, facilities and businesses. Partners can help with providing services and ultimately increase the capacity to support affected communities. As allies, they can advocate and influence decision makers when tackling barriers to accessing people and resources for a more effective response. The camaraderie, solidarity and professional support builds a strong community response and the ability to recover after a disaster.

The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments have many different partners.  We asked a few of them to provide information for our newsletter this month: the Gwinnett County Police Department- Office of Emergency Management, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), and the Medical Reserve Corps. All are critical partners in disaster preparedness and response and will be called into action. We asked them to talk about the roles they play in disaster response and how they collaborate with the Health Department.

If you’d like to be featured as a Partner in Preparedness, please let us know.  We will be in touch about an article in a future issue.

EMA: Emergency Management Agency

The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) links community partners and resources in times of need. While each organization has its own pool of resources, there comes a time when other community partners are necessary to help meet the challenges. EMA provides the link for agencies reach out and get the assets needed.

Mark Reiswig (Director of Emergency Preparedness at Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments) and Greg Swanson (Director of Gwinnett Emergency Management Agency) sat down to talk about the role EMA plays and the benefits to both organizations by partnering together.

 

ARES: Amateur Radio Emergency Services

Dorothy Jubon GA-CEM, EMHP, N2DLJ
Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments

The storm has hit.  You have no lights . . . no electricity.  It’s ok, you’re prepared. Wait – there are no cell phones.  And the county radio towers are not working – the storm knocked them down.  Even your trusty landline phone is not working, as there are too many wires down.

You need help.  You need to communicate within the disaster and with the world outside the disaster.  Who can help? ARES!

ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) consists of licensed amateur radio operators who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.

When called on to help, this group of volunteers willingly brings their own equipment and their expertise to assist.  Amateur Radio (also called Ham radio) is the only communications system that is completely self-sufficient.  It doesn’t rely on any pre-existing infrastructure to function.  This allows communications to be effected quickly.  Many Ham operators have pre-packed “go kits” that will let them initiate communications — even without electricity — in minutes.

The history of Ham Radio is a long one, beginning in 1896 with Marconi’s “major success” of communicating two miles.  Today Hams talk around the world, transmitting everything from Morse code [… — …] to completed Incident Command System forms.

We are fortunate to have an active ARES group in our counties who participates in exercises with the emergency preparedness and response community.

To qualify to be an active Ham Radio operator, you must pass Federal Communications Commission tests and operate within a specific set of rules.  Interested in learning more?  http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=amateur

MRC: Medical Reserve Corps

When a disaster or public health emergency occurs, local emergency response resources may be quickly overwhelmed. Experience has shown that volunteers who have been pre-identified, pre-credentialed, and pre-trained are much better able to participate in emergency response efforts.  Georgia’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units organize and utilize public health, medical, and non-medical volunteers BEFORE disaster strikes so we are ready when events do occur.

MRC is a national network of local groups of volunteers committed to improving the health, safety, and resiliency of their communities.  They work with local partners, like Public Health and Emergency Management.  In an emergency, MRC volunteers may assist with distributing medications, caring for people with special needs, or supporting local hospitals, health departments, and other emergency response partners.

Anyone can volunteer with the MRC, so don’t let the word “Medical” in the name keep you from joining.  In addition to medical and health care professionals, the MRC is also looking for community members without medical or health training.  These volunteers typically serve their community by assisting with administrative and other essential support functions. Possible types of administrative and other support volunteers include:

  • Administrators and business managers
  • Administrative assistants and office support staff
  • Drivers
  • Chaplains
  • Training directors
  • Trainers
  • Volunteer coordinators
  • Fundraising professionals
  • Supply and logistics managers
  • Interpreters/translators
  • Amateur radio operators

For more information on the MRC unit that serves Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Counties, visit:  www.mrcgem.com

MERS: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Liz Bitler, MPH
Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, is an illness that first emerged in 2012. MERS is caused by a new virus called MERS-CoV. MERS-CoV is related to the common cold and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which caused an outbreak in 2003.

MERS tends to be a serious illness, with severe respiratory illness, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. As of July 30, 2013, the World Health Organization reported 96 cases, and 46 of those died. However, some persons had only mild symptoms, and other people had no symptoms at all. When new diseases emerge, doctors and officials are able to identify the most severe cases first, making the death rate appear higher than it really is. With testing now available, we anticipate catching more of the mild cases and persons without symptoms, and we expect the death rate to be much lower. Most state laboratories are now able to test for MERS.

Thus far, no cases of MERS have been reported in the United States. Additionally, all of the cases have been connected to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan). MERS does not appear to spread easily from person to person, and requires close contact for spread. Household members and caretakers, such as healthcare workers, are examples of close contacts.

Because of the way that MERS spreads, only persons that travel to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, or are close contacts of persons that travel to those countries are at risk for acquiring MERS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that most travelers change their plans because of MERS. The CDC does recommend that US travelers to those countries wash their hands well, avoid contact with sick persons, and pay attention to their health. Specific recommendations are available online at cdc.gov/travel. Travelers concerned about MERS should speak with their doctor.

Public health is working with our community partners to provide information and guidance, monitor for illnesses consistent with MERS and other severe respiratory infections, and to coordinate testing when appropriate. With awareness and communication, we can reduce the risk of MERS within our community.

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