Community Crisis Response
During a public health disaster, search and rescue crews and emergency response personnel may be unavailable or incapacitated by the disaster. In preparation for a disaster such as a tornado or a severe thunderstorm with resulting flooding, a makeshift committee needs to be available. Many local government agencies go through a training program to develop an EOC or Emergency Operations Committee in their town in the event of a disaster. Such training is offered through courses called National Incident Management Systems, or NIMS and is required for all federal offices. After walking through a simulated disaster as the one entitled ‘Disaster in Franklin County’, I have recognized the successes and complications that can result from the mass confusion and panic. NIMS structure is organized into 3 systems, one system being the Incident Command System. In this particular disaster, the Incident Command system committee was assembled of some very experienced local and government employees as well as some that will be in their roles for the first time. The chain of command starts with the Incident Commander, followed in order of responsibility by the Public Health Officer and the Liaison chief. Taking orders from them are the Operations chief, Planning Section chief, the Logistics chief and the Finance/ Administration chief. Their individual roles are assigned to them and are defined during the initial NIMS training. The incident commander will be the one responsible for organizing the plan, assigning roles, determining deadlines as well as goals of the organization. Another directly important role is the Public Information Officer, whom is responsible for disseminating the necessary information to the public to assure continued safety. This information relates to how to safely prepare and keep food, where safe water can be found, where shelter is available and what areas are expected to be effected by the disaster and for how long. Another role is that of the Planning section chief. This person is responsible for managing the team and its planning, as well as gathering, analyzing and distributing information to the public. The Operations Section chief is responsible for developing the methods of acting on the plans and objectives established by the committee. This person should be good at giving direction to a group. A Logistics chief is needed to assemble all the necessary tools needed to accomplish the determined goals such as supplies or building space for town hall meetings. A Liaison officer is appointed for the interfacing between public and government agencies. It is helpful if this person has previous experience working with these agencies and feels comfortable representing and speaking for the agency. The Finance/Administration Section chief is needed to take account of the finances associated with the cleanup and record any financial obligations as well as keep receipts. Preferably this person would have some experience with payroll at a company or book-keeping. Also required to assure safe housing conditions is an inspection from the Environmental Health Specialist. They are assigned to inspect these temporary shelters and assure that the conditions are safe living conditions for mass shelters. If unsupervised, the communal living conditions could quickly become unsanitary and result in dangerous living conditions and spread further disease. The role of the Public Health nurse is to assess people’s needs, initially by traveling door-to-door. The questions he/she will ask are predetermined by the Incident Command center and they must also use personal experience and judgment to further assess individual situations. The community health nurse takes orders from the Public Health Officer whom follows the orders given by the Incident Commander.
There are several resources available to the Public Health nurse when a concern arises that is outside her particular realm of expertise. The nurse...
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