Why is the health department involved with emergency preparedness?
Some people may think only law enforcement, fire departments and medical emergency personnel are involved in emergencies, but the health department plays a crucial role in responding to public health emergencies such as an infectious disease outbreak, an emerging public health threat, or bioterrorism.
What is the scope of the Emergency Preparedness Division?
Our Emergency Preparedness (EP) Division enhances community preparedness by encouraging and supporting readiness planning efforts among all community members, from individual households to large corporations. The EP Division also fosters relationships with federal, state and local governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations to prepare for and respond to potential hazards.
This scope of work includes creating community-wide plans to respond to public health emergencies. Additionally, they serve in a leadership role on the Knox/East Tennessee Healthcare Coalition, a network of health care organizations, providers and regional partners that are committed to strengthening the health care system in preparation for emergencies.
As is the case with all infectious disease, the KCHD epidemiology and emergency preparedness division utilizes plans, alongside health care partners, to respond to potential disease threats. In regards to the international public health response to COVID-19, KCHD relies on guidance set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health. In addition, community education in the form of media interviews and presentations to community partners are ongoing. This division consistently monitors and assesses any and all infectious disease threats to determine what additional measures should be taken to ensure the safety and wellness of Knox County citizens. To view the CDC’s resources for pandemic preparedness, visit their website here.
In addition to these ongoing efforts, this division demonstrated their outstanding work during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. Our EP staff conducted internal training and exercises for our staff; planned and led a regional Ebola tabletop exercise with more than 60 participants from the East Tennessee region; directed a full-scale Ebola exercise with more than 30 health care organizations across the region; and assisted all area hospitals and emergency medical services with internal preparedness, planning and exercises during this time. The Ebola epidemic illustrated the importance of the trust that the EP division has fostered with our partners in the medical community. It also demonstrated that we must continue diligent and thorough planning and communication efforts for any public health threat.
What are the responsibilities of the Emergency Preparedness Division?
- Assessment and Planning
- Development of new and assessments of existing plans, procedures, staff, equipment and resources
- Establish community collaboration with local emergency response agencies to ensure local preparedness efforts are complete
- Frequently exercise Emergency Response Plans on a local, regional and state level
- Surveillance and Epidemiology
- KCHD staff investigates reportable diseases
- Utilize several surveillance programs to monitor and rapidly detect unusual disease activity within Knox County
- 911 calls are monitored
- Emergency department visits are monitored
- Diagnoses by network medical providers are reported
- School absenteeism is surveyed daily
- Communications and Information Technology
Maintain communications (telephone, fax and e-mail) with health care providers, hospitals, law enforcement, emergency response personnel and other health departments to ensure rapid dissemination of information
- Volunteer Management
Inform and recruit community volunteers who would be asked to work Mass Dispensing/Vaccination Clinics in response to a large scale disease outbreak or bioterrorism attack
- Risk Communication
- Ensure that health/risk information is readily available to the public during a terrorist event or natural disaster
- Maintain relationships with various media outlets to ensure rapid dissemination of information
- Education and Training
- Provide training to key health personnel who respond to public health emergencies
- Coordinate education and training with other health and emergency agencies
- Provide training to community members who volunteer to work in Mass Dispensing/Vaccination Clinics
- Organize and participate in emergency drills
- Provide speakers to organizations upon request
Staff in the Knox County Health Department’s Emergency Preparedness Division can be reached at 865-215-5093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.