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Is area ready for a crisis?

July 13, 2011

Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons

Auglaize County Health Department officials plan to use the last of its H1N1 funding from the state to further develop emergency preparedness efforts both of its staff and the local community.
Auglaize County Health Board members approved two contracts during their meeting Tuesday to move forward with a survey of the community on its emergency preparedness within the home and with a professional in the public sector of the emergency
preparedness field for training of the health department’s staff and emergency responders.
Health Commissioner Charlotte Parsons recommended both measures, totaling $7,000 with $4,000 going toward a contract with the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio for development of a preparedness survey, analysis and a report of the results. Board members plan to pay retired Greenville Fire Chief Robert Rhoades, who also served for at least a dozen years working with disaster preparedness for the Ohio Department of Health, a maximum of $3,000 for training to include the development of materials and facilitation of training sessions.
Rhoades has worked with other health departments in the state on similar efforts toward emergency preparedness. Specifically, he is expected to address incident command, public information officers and develop a functional exercise to be used in training.
“For us, it’s really important for people to understand their roles no matter what the event is,” Parsons said. “The types of things he’ll be focusing on are something that we need training on over and over again.
“The first focus is to get the staff comfortable with their positions,” she said. “Volunteers’ roles will vary with events.”
She said the basic program Rhoades plans to present is entitled, “How to Run a Public Health Emergency.”
“It’s pretty basic information but it gives the employees a way to fit in,” Parsons said.
After the health department’s staff is trained, Parsons said she foresees opening training up to others in the county through the Local Emergency Planning Committee and Joint Township District Memorial Hospital.
“Right now our first focus has to be getting our staff trained and then moving to a wider approach,” Parsons said.
Parsons said the survey is meant to better inform health officials how prepared county residents are to respond to disasters in their homes, workplace or elsewhere.
“How prepared are they if disaster strikes, are they prepared to survive until help arrives,” Parson said she asked in an introduction to the survey.
“We want to find out where people are at and then go from there to know how best to help prepare them for survival,” she said of plans to gear training based on areas highlighted in the results of the online survey.
Part of the Hospital Council’s contract is to perform analysis and prepare a report of results from the 37-question survey, which asks respondents about their special emergency needs, if they have an emergency plan, and what type of supplies they have at home.
Fliers were distributed at the St. Joseph’s Fourth of July Festival and are expected to be available during the Auglaize County Fair, too, to notify residents of the survey, which can be completed through the middle of August. The survey, which should only take a few minutes, is available online on the Auglaize County Health Department’s Web site at auglaizehealth.org/
“We’ve gotten some answers and we’re getting the word out as much as we can,” Parsons said. “We’re hoping to get as many responses as possible.”

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