Western Governors University
Disaster in Franklin County
Role of Major Public Health Personnel
The roles of major public health personnel must be delegated properly in a disaster situation in order to facilitate effective action. In the incident presented, a chain of command was established and assignments given to the appropriate personnel based on their skills and experience. As a whole, this group reports to the Incident Commander, an individual that is responsible for managing the entire disaster operation and various teams involved in every level of disaster management. In the first few hours following a disaster there are many things that need to be addressed. In the scenario presented, one of the initial messages that must be presented is water safety. Informing the public on the rationale of why their water is unsafe is important in helping them understand the necessity of boiling it before use to prevent illness. Also informing them of where they can obtain a safe water supply is crucial. The availability of temporary shelters and housing is also important in the first hours and days following the storm since many people may have had to leave their homes due to flooding, loss of power, or structural damage. Making sure citizens understand the dangers posed by downed power lines and the steps they should take when encountering them is a health issue as well. Proper food storage and handling is also critical when there is a lack of power in many homes. Knowing how long food will last in an inoperable refrigerator or freezer will help prevent foodborne illness. Other messages of importance in the weeks to follow include the topic of mold. While it may not be of the utmost importance initially, residents who have experienced flooding in their homes must be made aware of how to identify the source of the problem and how to treat and remove it in order to prevent any health risks associated with mold. Public health officials must assist in assessing shelter sites to ensure proper food handling, storage, and preparation. Ample and sanitary bathroom facilities must be assessed in order to arrange for additional portable services to be brought in if necessary. The living conditions that exist in the shelter must also be assessed in order to ensure individual privacy and personal safety. Tetanus was a concern for some citizens and the public health officials alerted area immunization clinics to who may be at risk for developing the illness as well as recommendations for vaccination by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Safety of area restaurants and their ability to reopen came into question after the storm and public health officials, in cooperation with adjoining counties, worked to address the issue in a timely fashion in order to restore a sense of normalcy to the community. They must all be inspected to ensure that all public health guidelines are being followed and that the establishment is structurally sound. Providing culturally competent educational materials to members of the community, including those that may not speak English, is important and would potentially address the clean-up of hazardous materials, downed limbs, and trees as well as proper treatment of private wells. In the scenario members of the public health team joined other emergency workers in assisting those residents that may be cut off from supplies due to flooding in their area. Public health nurses assisted in door-to-door interview with those residents to address immediate health concerns or injuries that may have occurred as a result of the storm, as well as the availability of basic supplies. Basic physical assessments may be necessary in some situations. The nurse can address medication and medical equipment supplies, and the ability to use medical equipment such as nebulizers and oxygen concentrators. A lack of power would leave...