September is National Preparedness Month, an opportunity to renew our commitment to strengthen the ability of individuals and the Cincinnati community to respond and rebound from traumatic, tragic and unpredictable events. The anniversaries of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina remind us of the devastating impacts of a disaster and the importance of community responses.
Communities across the nation, includingCincinnati, must be able to withstand adversity such as an influenza pandemic, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Local preparedness is critical as Cincinnati emergency response agencies can quickly mobilize a response to event, while it may take 48 hours or more for federal resources to arrive.
As the Cincinnati Health Department, we are responsible for planning for, responding to and mitigating public health emergencies—natural and human made—through our Center for Public Health Preparedness. The Center, led by Steven Englender, MD., MPH fulfills this role, in part, through grants, including the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP).
The CRI is a federally-funded effort to prepare US cities and metropolitan areas to respond effectively to a large-scale bioterrorist event by dispensing antibiotics to entire identified population within 48 hours. PHEP provides funding to enable public health departments to have the capacity and capability to effectively respond to the public health consequences of terrorist threats, infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological emergencies.
Cincinnati’s challenge is this: We must be ready to respond quickly and efficiently to any emergency, minimize suffering, injury and death, and tend to the greater vulnerability of children, the elderly, the physically compromised and those who live in poverty. Our commitment will not end after immediate danger of an emergency is over. Our goals will be to rapidly restore Cincinnati to a state of self-sufficiency, health and social functioning.
Look no further than last year for an example. I want to thank the hundreds of staff and volunteers who responded to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. This campaign resulted in the Cincinnati Health Department providing more than 50,000 vaccinations at hundreds of schools, senior centers, recreation centers and community events throughout the City.
While the Cincinnati Health Department and other emergency preparedness organizations make plans for a disaster, individuals have critical roles to play as well. Are you ready to help yourself, your family and your business in an emergency?
Remember to 1. Get a Kit 2. Make a Plan 3. Stay Informed. After you’ve assembled an emergency supply kit, made your emergency plans and understand what to do during specific emergencies, you will be able to act when a disaster strikes. Find out information about emergency kits and plans at www.ready.gov
Are you able to assist in this community preparedness effort? Are you a member of the local Tristate Medical Reserve Corps Unit (TMRC) or other volunteer organization? Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, interpreters, chaplains, office workers, legal advisors and others will be needed in an emergency and are a key component of a quick and effective emergency response. Information about how to join is available at http://www.swoph.org/tmrc.htm.
We can honor the victims of past disasters by becoming ready and resilient individuals, families and communities.