The last couple weeks have been full of horrifying stories and images of people losing their homes, personal belongings, and even family members to Hurricane Harvey. Texas was hit hard, and just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, Hurricane Irma began to form in the Atlantic.
In disaster situations like hurricanes, communities are forced to come together and prepare for the worst. Fortunately, communities like Taylor County have several trained personnel available. At the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department we have a section dedicated to planning for health related emergencies such as natural disasters, epidemics, and pandemics. This section is called Threat Preparedness.
There are several components to a successful Threat Preparedness operation. Included are: planning, detection, communication, response, and training. Each component has its own importance and is imperative to protecting, warning, and educating the community about potential threats.
The first step to Threat Preparedness is planning. Planning involves many organizations within the community. These organizations are often referred to as “first responders” and include law enforcement, fire, and EMS. These organizations develop, implement, and test plans tailored to your community so that disasters can be responded to in the most effective way.
Detection involves creating and strengthening ways to detect disasters such as biological threats. Whether these threats occur naturally or are man-made, the Threat Preparedness section works with public health to protect the public recognize the presence of these threats as quickly as possible.
Communication is the simplest part of Threat Preparedness. It involves participating in enhanced communication methods with partners within the community and the general public. Communication is accomplished by using programs such as the Health Alert Network (HAN) which alerts the public to threats rapidly and efficiently through phone calls, texts, and emails.
Response involves working with established partners within the community to develop and implement systems to respond to possible public health emergencies. This step of Threat Preparedness is the most crucial because it puts all the plans and communication to the test and involves the participation of several agencies and the general public (volunteers).
Training is the final step of Threat Preparedness. Training involves working within the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department and community partners to train volunteers and agency workers to: recognize threats in the community, evaluate methods to manage these threats, provide training to other citizens and inform them of potential threats they could face.
All these steps encompass Threat Preparedness and are crucial to the protection of Taylor County and its citizens. If you would like to know more about Threat Preparedness or are interested in becoming involved, contact our Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn at 304-265-1288 or visit our website at www.GTCHDWV.org.