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Practice Tip of the Week: National Preparedness Month

Monday, September 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Roy Muyinza
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 By Melissa Parmer, RN, CCM, MBA

For much of Texas, school is back in session; chatter about homework, homecoming, sports and after-school activities fills the hallways. Though the summer break has ended, the risk for emergencies and disasters is ever present.

National Preparedness Month is an annual event occurring each September since 2004. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) partners with over 3,000 organizations to promote disaster preparation efforts and encourage engagement and action before, during and after an emergency has occurred. Like the world’s population, partnering organizations are diverse: the CDC works in conjunction with global, regional, local and national governments in addition to public and private health organizations to prepare for both natural and man-made disasters.

Promoted by the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, the 2018 theme is Prepare Your Health. Each week of the month will have its own theme: personal health preparedness, pandemic planning, policy and partnerships and public health response. While news sources often broadcast stories of disease outbreaks or seasonal illnesses, such as the flu, pandemics occur infrequently but with dire impact, such as the 1918 flu pandemic. In addition to information on pandemic basics and current status monitoring, the CDC’s National Pandemic Strategy site provides further information relevant to global, federal, local and state planning, including information on the Strategic National Stockpile

With flu season approaching, nurses interested in public health and policy may be interested in the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool and CDC pandemic tools. The CDC pandemic tools include resources that may help nurses, health officials, policy makers, and hospital administrators prepare for the next influenza pandemic. Though not an all-inclusive list the CDC pandemic tools include the CDC Community Flu 2.0 and CDC FluAid2.0. As a pandemic influenza can quickly overwhelm a community the CDC FluWorkLoss 1.0 resource may be of interest; users interacting with this resource can alter different variables (input values) to get a graphic illustration and hypothetical data, such as the estimated total workday loss, estimated workdays lost-by-week and the estimated percentage of total workdays lost.

Whether intentional, accidental or natural, many sources can pose a threat to public health both near and across the globe. The CDC and the Global Health Security Agenda partners with other United States agencies as well as international organizations, national governments, private and public stakeholders to promote and accelerate progress towards a safer and more secure world. Efforts and agenda items include promoting global health security as an international security priority, a well as securing the global population from infectious disease threats by prevention, detection and response. Nurses may be interested in learning about situation awareness or training opportunities with the CDC’s Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication. For example, the CERC offers in-person and online training opportunities, such as webinars.

The CDC is not alone in its National Preparedness Month mission. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its own National Preparedness Month mission presents similar resources and learning opportunities. The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), for example, recognizes its role in safeguarding and enforcing civil rights laws, even in times of disaster. Recognizing the importance of safety in the whole community, the DHS-CRCL aims to interact with and serve individuals with disabilities during disaster response and recovery. Anyone interested can access recaps of listening sessions with disability stakeholders in disaster impacted areas.

The FEMA 2016 National Household Survey Results indicate that less than fifty percent of households have an emergency plan, though seventy percent of Americans reported there were supplies at home in preparation for disaster. Nurses can teach patients about the importance of building an emergency or disaster preparation kit before disaster strikes. This preparation can also include accounting for the diverse populations nurses interact with. Many people require special care; nurses can promote emergency preparedness for these specific groups, such as older adults, children, patients with chronic illness or people with disabilities by educating patients, family members and community members about the extra care that may be required by certain patient groups. For example, patients with conditions that require glucose monitoring may require extra supplies in an emergency kit, while families with infants may require emergency kits with formula, diapers and other infant care items.

Preparation needn’t be limited to emergency-kit and evacuation-route education; pediatric nurses may be interested in sharing the readiness-promotion Ready Wrigley books with patients and families. The American Nurses Association disaster preparedness website offers a wealth of information and educational opportunities for nurses. The CDC Public Health Matters blog and weekly newsletter may be of interest for nurses, patients and the general population.

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