Health and Family Services Cabinet
Kentucky State, Local Public Health Departments Assist in Ice Storm Response
Public Health Preparedness Aids Collaborative Statewide Recovery Efforts
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 30, 2009) – The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and local health departments across the state have been working with emergency management officials and other partners this week to aid response and recovery efforts related to the historic ice storm.
“Many people do not think of emergency preparedness and response when they think of public health,” said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. “Since 2001, however, there has been a concerted effort to build the capacity of public health to assist in responding to emergencies of all types, including the development of strong relationships with emergency management, hospitals, and other key partners. Those efforts have allowed public health at the state and local level to step up to the plate and provide a wide range of assistance to the primary response agencies during this event.”
DPH began its efforts by opening its in-house departmental emergency operation center (DOC) on Tuesday morning, to field questions and requests for help from state and local agencies, and by providing representatives to assist at the state emergency operations center (EOC) coordinated by the Division of Emergency Management. The DOC operates from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily, while the EOC is open 24-7.
Aid offered by the state health department this week has ranged over a variety of activities. Health officials have arranged for the loan of equipment, including a generator that is being used to power a Grayson County shelter serving 300 people and 14 mobile response trailers with 25 cots each to shelters across the state. Among other key activities are: facilitating the supply of fuel and other needed resources to health care facilities and shelters; working with the Kentucky Pharmacy Association to provide necessary prescription medications to individuals in shelters through local pharmacies; and giving emergency officials guidance related to food safety, other public health issues related to power outages, and medical advice about health issues at shelters.
DPH continues to coordinate the deployment of so-called “strike,” or assistance, teams of public health professionals from around Kentucky to areas hit harder by the storm. Shelters are also drawing on DPH’s Kentucky Health Emergency Listing of Professionals for Surge (K HELPS) program, which includes a variety of health care professionals that sign up in advance to volunteer in emergencies and are then assigned to a local Medical Reserve Corps program. To contact K HELPS, call (888) 398-0013.
In addition, DPH has requested assistance from other southeastern states with providing special needs nurses to help in shelters and environmental specialists to assist in assessments related to food safety in shelters and restaurants. Two officials from the federal Department of Health and Human Services will join the public health effort today, assisting at both the DOC and the state EOC. Those officials will help provide a close link between Kentucky and the federal government during recovery efforts.
Local health departments have provided key assistance at the community level, in some cases opening shelters at their locations, as well as assisting emergency management in other ways.
“A response of this magnitude requires that we make the best use possible of all the resources at our disposal across the state,” said Dr. Hacker. “I want to commend the staff at our local health departments and at the state health department for their continued hard work to support the statewide response to this emergency.”