Recently, the Public Health Council (PHC) launched new web pages devoted to emergency preparedness resources in the Upper Valley. “We are fortunate to work very closely with the Upper Valley Public Health Region’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and the Emergency Preparedness Specialist for the Vermont Department of Health’s White River Junction District Office. Together, we work to strengthen community preparedness in the Upper Valley, provide effective public information and warnings in the event of an emergency, and effectively support the Upper Valley during Mass Care Events,” says Alice Ely, PHC Executive Director and Treasurer of the Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corp Advisory Board. This includes planning with the region’s first responders and disaster recovery organizations. We also support the Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corps, a trained group of medical and support volunteers available to help during emergencies. The web pages tell the story of public health emergency preparedness and provide contact information for the key resources in the region.
What is Public Health Emergency Preparedness?
Like all communities, the Upper Valley faces many threats with the potential for large-scale health consequences, including disease outbreaks, natural and man-made disasters. Some impacts are short-lived and some, like the mental health impacts on survivors, can be long-lasting. The public health, mental health, health care, and emergency response systems must be prepared to work with communities to build capacity and resilience.
Public Health emergency preparedness focuses specifically on those systems that aim to improve the overall health of the public by ensuring equity of services, particularly those that promote protective health such as vaccinations, safe housing, environmental safety and others. It also looks to health care systems which serve the community in emergencies such as our hospitals, clinics, and emergency medical services among others. It ensures that these institutions have robust plans that are adaptable and scalable to emergencies, and that they are prepared to serve their community in times of need.
Making Flu Vaccine Easy to Get is Example of Public Health Emergency Preparedness
Preparedness and prevention often go hand in hand. Over the past several years, local public health agencies teamed up to provide a number of free vaccinations to children and uninsured adults in the Upper Valley by scheduling and staffing flu clinics. During the fall of 2018, 1,659 NH school children in 19 schools in the Upper Valley received flu vaccine at their schools. The Public Health Council also organized five community-based free flu vaccine clinics for anyone aged 10 and older and vaccinated nearly 1,200 people.
These clinics were staffed by local medical students, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, area fire department personnel and many others who devoted their time and energy to ensuring their community’s continued safety. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center plays a key role in providing vaccine with their free walk-in clinics and by donating the vaccine for the Public Health Council’s community clinics. All these vaccines help protect our community from large-scale flu outbreaks, reduce the severity of the illness for those who might still get the flu, and provide protection for those among us who are not able to get flu vaccine for medical reasons.
Personal Emergency Preparedness
The public has a role to play in preparing for public health emergencies as well. In large-scale emergencies, officials might order evacuations or, in some cases, “shelter-in-place” orders. In these two situations, members of the public would be expected to either leave their homes at very short notice or told not to leave their homes for what could be several days. Either way, there are steps individuals and families can and should take to be ready for such an emergency. Fortunately, you do not need to figure this out alone. There are numerous resources online to guide you through developing a personal emergency preparedness plan. One such resource is on the Vermont Department of Health Website; another can be found at the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) .
We hope you will use the Public Health Council website to learn more about public health emergency preparedness in the Upper Valley. There you will find contact information for emergency preparedness staff, links to local Facebook pages, and examples of emergency preparedness in action.