CHFS Emergency Planning: A History
The anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001 revealed our lack of preparedness for bioterrorism and exposed how vulnerable our nation was at every level.
The government, the medical community, the media – and ordinary citizens – learned they have to be prepared to deal with a crisis of a catastrophic nature, whether that is a dangerous infectious disease, a widespread power outage or a terrorist attack.
In Kentucky, much was in place before 2001 in terms of the state’s ability to prevent, prepare for and cope with all types of health hazards whether natural, manmade or bioterrorism.
The Department for Public Health (DPH) – within the Cabinet for Health & Family Services (CHFS) – develops and supports public health programs and activities for all citizens of Kentucky.
Since 2001, statewide collaborative efforts aimed at community leaders and local governments have been underway. DPH physicians have been making presentations on bioterrorism and emerging public health issues in meetings across the state. Mock disaster drills aimed at better integration of personnel and planning efforts are also underway as officials explore ways to reduce overlap of services and increase inter-agency collaboration.
• New people are on board at local health departments – regional training coordinators, epidemiologists and public health preparedness planners. Each department works in tandem with local emergency management personnel.
• The CHFS has made significant additions to its emergency communications network as well. A comprehensive new database – The Health Alert Network – links all health professionals statewide; the Poison Control Network can be activated as a primary contact for the public in a dire emergency; the ProAct video conference network can bring local, state and national experts face to face with clinicians and public health officials in the event of an incident of national significance; and a major disaster response training program, Ky.Train.Org, is underway for public health and other emergency responders.
• A media crisis response plan for communicating with the media is designed to go into effect upon notification from the CHFS Secretary, the DPH Commissioner or the designated member of the Cabinet Communications Office.
From the state level to the most rural community, Kentucky’s public health officials and emergency management personnel – along with the new regional training coordinators, epidemiologists and public health preparedness planners – are dedicated to collaborating across agency lines with one goal in mind: To prevent disasters every day.