Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Background

From natural disasters to terrorism, all crises have the potential to negatively impact public health. The goal of Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) is to increase a community’s ability to respond in an efficient manner to incidents in order to preserve health and wellbeing. There are 15 functional areas that encompass PHEP as outlined in the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities.

PHEP relies on the whole community in order to advance preparedness. For example, the community preparedness and volunteer management capabilities aim to educate, train, and equip everyday citizens to respond to disasters. On the other hand, the mass care and medical surge capabilities involve engaging healthcare providers, medical facilities, and first responders to prepare for activating an emergency disaster shelter or alternate care site.

The Greater Nashua Public Health Region PHEP team fulfills the vision and mission of the Nashua Division of Public and Community Services (DPHCS) through preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation of public health threats and challenges. Greater Nashua PHEP works with dozens of stakeholders, including emergency management directors, first responders, healthcare providers, and hospitals administrators, across the region to promote public health emergency preparedness principles. Additionally, Greater Nashua PHEP develops regional plans for medical countermeasure dispensing via points-of-dispensing.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness Data Overview

Check out the points below for the main takeaways from this page. 

• Fewer than 12% of households in Nashua have a written disaster plan.

• 97.8% of Nashua households have a smoke detector.

• 19% of Nashua households feel well prepared to handle an emergency.

• 40% of U.S. adults don't consider themselves prepared but plan to prepare for emergencies and  68% of U.S. adults have set aside some money for an emergency.

Personal Preparedness

Personal preparedness refers to how an individual is ready to respond to an emergency at their home, in their car, or anywhere else that they may spend time. Levels of personal preparedness in Nashua, New Hampshire were evaluated during a 2017 door-to-door survey referred to as the Nashua Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). 

1. Make  a Plan

Developing an emergency plan is a critical step individuals can take to increase their own individual preparedness. An emergency plan is free to develop but will prove to be invaluable to you and your family if and when a disaster strikes. Here are some steps to help you create an emergency plan:

• Know what type of disasters can impact you. In NH, winter weather is a serious threat which can cause delayed travel times and power outages.

• Establish evacuation routes from your home.

• Establish family meeting points. One family meeting point should be located in the vicinity of your home, one should be in your neighborhood, and one away from your home.

• Gather contact info. Do not assume you will always have access to your cell phone. Make sure you commit some important numbers to memory.

Additional resources to help develop your emergency action plan are available here.

2. Build A Kit

Gathering and maintaining a cache of emergency supplies will allow you to be self sufficient after a disaster. An emergency kit should contain food, water, medications, and other supplies such as a first aid kit, candles, flashlight, and a weather radio. Your kit should reflect the needs of your family. If you have children, include favorite snacks, toys, and comfort items. Pet owners should include pet food, pet medications, supplies, and toys in the kit. Include copies of medical insurance and Medicare cards and contact information for doctors, relatives, or friends who should be notified if you are hurt.

Establishing an emergency kit can be challenging. Even emergency preparedness professionals struggle to maintain the right supplies. Storage space may be limited preventing individuals and families from storing adequate rations of non-perishable food and water. Financial limitations may prohibit individuals from buying things other than essentials needed for daily life. 

3. Get Involved

Getting involved is a great way for you and your family to contribute to your community! Get involved locally by joining the Greater Nashua Community Emergency Response Team, your neighborhood association, workplace safety committees, or engaging in training opportunities such as first aid, CPR, and Stop The Bleed. Youth organizations such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts also teach youth members the importance of community and public service. During a disaster, these groups are instrumental at assembling care packages for survivors, checking on elderly neighbors, and supporting responders. 

Financial Resilience

Financial preparedness is one of the most difficult elements of preparedness to obtain. Americans at all income levels can experience the challenges that come with rebuilding life after a disaster or emergency. During these stressful times, having access to personal records is crucial to start the recovery process quickly and efficiently. 

Gather critical information and documentation, obtain property, life, and health insurance, and consider saving money in an emergency savings account. Learn more with the FEMA Financial First Aid Kit by clicking the button below.

Community Preparedness 

Just like individuals, community organizations should prepare for disasters. Disasters may disrupt business as usual forcing organizations to implement creative work arounds. Is your organization prepared to notify clients of closures or changes to services? Can services be delivered virtually?

Resilient Nashua Toolkit

40% of businesses will not open again after a disaster. Another 25% fail within one year (FEMA & Insurance Information Institute). Your organization is important to the City of Nashua and its residents. It is vital to the rest of the community that you recover quickly from a disaster and return to normal operations. The best way to ensure fast disaster recovery is to plan for when things go wrong. This toolkit is designed to increase the resiliency of our community's small businesses, healthcare facilities, schools, child care centers, non-profits, and faith-based organizations. This step-by-step, self-guided suite of resources will assist you in your resilience planning and maintenance.

Pandemic Preparedness

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the need for individuals, communities, and organizations to establish and maintain pandemic preparedness. This pandemic ushered stay at home orders throughout the nation and globally in order to stop the viral spread. The closure of non-essential businesses made obtaining necessary items and services more challenging. 

Prepare NOW

• Learn how diseases spread.

• Take actions to prevent the spread.

• Plan for schools, workplaces, and community centers to be closed. 

• Create an emergency plan so that you and your family know what to do.

• Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days or weeks.

• Review your health insurance policies to understand what they cover.

• Create password-protected digital copies of important documents. 

Stay Healthy

• Follow the latest guidelines from the CDC and state and local authorities. 

• Maintain healthy habits and public health practices. 

• Limit close, face-to-face contact with others. Stay at home as much as possible.

• Practice social distancing (six feet) from people who are not in your household. 

• Share accurate information about the disease. 

• Know that it’s normal to feel anxious or stressed. Take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling upset.

Be Safe AFTER

• Stay home when sick (except to get medical care).

• Follow guidance from your health care provider and local health department.

• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• Evaluate your family emergency plan and make timely updates.

• Work with your community to talk about the lessons you learned from the pandemic. 

Healthcare Emergency Response Coalition

The Greater Nashua Healthcare Emergency Response Coalition (HERC) is a collaborative of public health and healthcare organizations, including public and private sector response partners, that collaborate to increase the capacity of the GNPHR to efficiently and effectively prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters that will potentially impact the Region’s healthcare infrastructure.

The Greater Nashua HERC has often been referred to as the model for healthcare coalitions for emergency preparedness and response in the State of New Hampshire and continues to provide technical assistance to organizations in need of exercise design and evaluation support, emergency planning, and continuity planning. It also provides healthcare, public health, and emergency services with a forum to collaborate on special projects, coordinate training and exercise opportunities, and share best practices and lessons learned.

Flood, Fire, & Disaster Risk  

Flood

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. Floods occur when there is a temporary overflow of water on dry land. Floods result from rain, snow, storms, or overflows of water systems, and can sometimes develop very quickly. Anyone in a flood warning should find shelter immediately because just six inches of moving water can knock a person down, and one foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away.

Floods are a public health priority because entering or failing to evacuate flooded areas can lead to injury or death. To be prepared, it is important to obtain flood insurance, as floods are not covered in homeowner’s policies. Find flood coverage under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

Fire

In 2018, there were over one million fires in the U.S., a 2.5% decrease since 2009. Out of the one million fires in 2018, 379,600 were residential, meaning they were home fires. Many residential fire-related deaths remain preventable and fire continues to pose a significant public health problem. In New Hampshire, approximately 37% of fires are residential, 11% are in vehicles, and 36% are outside fires.

More men die and are injured in fires than women. African American males  and American Indian males have the highest fire death rates per million population. People ages 85 or older have the highest fire death rate and people ages 50-54 have the highest fire injury rate (FEMA).

Be “alarmed” by installing smoke alarms on every floor in your home. Make sure they are working properly by testing the smoke alarms once a month. Have a conversation with family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year. If there is ever a fire in your home, evacuate and call for help.  

Disasters

All of us face the possibility of natural disasters, accidents, power outages, or intentional acts to disrupt our daily lives. We cannot control the weather or prevent disasters from happening, but there are steps you can take to minimize risks from known hazards. Planning now can help save lives later.

Know what disasters and hazards could affect your area, how to get emergency alerts, and where you would go if you need to evacuate. Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Healthy Equity & Preparedness

A person's health can be seriously impacted by their race, ethnicity, gender, income level, education, and other socioeconomic factors. In regards to public health emergency preparedness...

• Social vulnerability refers to the resilience of communities when confronted by external stresses on human health, such as natural or human-caused disasters or disease outbreaks. Reducing social vulnerability can decrease both human suffering and economic loss.

• The Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) includes socioeconomic factors such as poverty, unemployment, income, and high-school graduation rates. Census tracts are ranked within each state to enable mapping and analysis of relative vulnerability in individual states. Values given are percentiles of percentage estimates. Percentile ranking values range from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability.

• Although disasters can affect anyone in a given community or region, those with access and functional needs have the highest rates of morbidity and mortality during an emergency or disaster.

• Individuals and families may not have the financial means to purchase shelf stable food and other emergency supplies. Refugees and immigrants may not have family members to rely on or social connections in the community. 

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