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Tennesseans Urged to Prepare for Disasters During National Public Health Week

Nashville, March 29, 2007

No one ever expects disaster to strike, but being prepared is the best way to help your family cope with an emergency situation. The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) urges Tennesseans to talk with their families about preparing a disaster plan during National Public Health Week, April 2-8, 2007. 

The Tennessee Department of Health joins the Tennessee Public Health Association and hundreds of other partners with the National Public Health Association in this annual observance. The theme for National Public Health Week 2007 is “Take the First Step! Preparedness and Public Health Threats:  Addressing the Unique Needs of the Nation’s Vulnerable Populations.” The observance will focus on specific population groups each day: 

Monday, April 2                       Families
Tuesday, April 3                      Those with chronic health care needs, including diabetes, asthma, 
cancer and high blood pressure
Wednesday, April 4                 Hourly-wage workers and employers
Thursday, April 5                     Schools serving children in kindergarten through 12th grade 

“As part of our mission to protect the health of the citizens of Tennessee, the Department of Health is eager to help Tennessee families prepare for disasters,” said Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN, Commissioner of Health. “We offer a variety of resources to help those who are working to prepare for emergencies.”  

As part of this weeklong observance, the Tennessee Department of Health is emphasizing its role in emergency preparedness. TDOH is the designated lead agency for public health preparedness in the state, and would be responsible for receiving, managing and dispensing life-saving drugs, vaccines, antidotes, medical supplies and other equipment to communities impacted by any public health emergency. 

“Preparedness for public health emergencies is a continuous process,” said State Epidemiologist Allen Craig, M.D., who oversees Tennessee’s preparedness program. “Now is the best time to begin preparing before a disaster strikes.” 

TDOH has Regional Emergency Response Coordinators across the state to assist with communications and disaster response. TDOH has created a comprehensive Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan to address the threat of a possible influenza pandemic. The Public Health Emergency Preparedness program provides information about biological agents and training for potential bioterrorism emergencies, and also deals with preparedness and response for chemical incidents. TDOH works closely with a number of other agencies, including the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to prepare for and protect the citizens of Tennessee in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.   

“Preparedness begins with the individual, and the best time to start is now,” said Doris Spain, Executive Director of the Tennessee Public Health Association.  “The best way to make sure you and your family will be safe during an emergency is to be prepared before disaster strikes.” 

TDOH can help individuals prepare their families for disasters. “Take the First Step” during National Public Health Week by creating a family disaster plan, and stocking items for an emergency kit for your home. Your family should talk about plans for staying home in an emergency and for evacuation. Stock essential emergency supplies, such as food, water and first aid items. For more information on family disaster plans and emergency kits, visit the TDOH Web site at http://www2.state.tn.us/health/CEDS/bioterrorism.htm, or go to the American Red Cross Web site at http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_77_,00.html

TDOH is also working to recruit, train and utilize 25,000 volunteers with a variety of skills and credentials for the department’s mass emergency clinics. These volunteers would be called upon to assist in dispensing medications or administering immunizations if a major public health emergency should arise. All volunteers will be trained for each assigned task. Needed personnel include physicians and nurses, clerical workers, pharmacists, translators and emergency medical technicians, as well as general volunteers for tasks such as crowd and traffic control, registration and answering phones. Learn more about volunteering at one of our mass emergency clinics at http://www2.state.tn.us/health/volunteer/start.htm

For more information on National Public Health Week activities in your community, contact your county Health Department. A list of Tennessee’s Health Departments is available at http://www2.state.tn.us/health/LocalDepts/index.html.