The term "situational awareness" typically conjures images of emergency responders on the scene of a complex incident with many emergency vehicles and various levels of activity, both command and operationally oriented. Public health normally does not enter into the equation, but perhaps it is time to change that thinking.
Responders in the pre-hospital emergency medical field must be in a state of readiness at all times. Working on the front lines of an emergency incident requires the ability to leverage external resources, the determination to harden operations, and the skillfulness to manage patient surge.
Although fewer than 40 percent of U.S. veterans receive care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the agency strives to have broad access to reliable medical care during a disaster. The Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center and its partners are exploring ways to improve healthcare resilience both inside and outside the VA.
Although many lessons have been learned from Ebola and other infectious diseases, planning needs are quickly diverted when the previous threat is overshadowed by another emerging or re-emerging disease, or other homeland security threat. However, without adequate prioritization, planning, and preparedness, the nation may be set for failure when the next unexpected threat presents.
Civilian responders have successfully acquired many skills that were originally developed by military services. Situational awareness is one such skill that would be beneficial to adapt to the civilian members of the emergency medical services. Maintaining a heightened sense of awareness would help responders stay "in the loop."
In the first week of December 2015, more than 1,000 professionals in healthcare-related organizations, emergency management agencies, public health departments, emergency medical services (EMS), nongovernmental organizations, and academia met in San Diego, California, to discuss ways to bolster partnerships within and between these disparate groups.
When one peanut has the ability to kill, it is necessary to examine the practices and procedures used in public yet confined spaces such as emergency shelters. By following simple steps, emergency managers are able to perform shelter operations while limiting exposure to allergens and contaminants that could turn a safe haven into an exposure risk.
A new federal resource equips healthcare providers with a valuable information repository. This resource also offers a way to request technical assistance and provides a forum for peer-to-peer discussions. Decontamination is just one of the many in-depth topics addressed by subject matter experts in the healthcare field.
Public health's role is often synonymous with biological events such as Ebola, H1N1, and SARS, but the field of public health offers many capabilities that are relevant to chemical, radiological, nuclear, and explosive events as well. To leverage these capabilities, a joint effort from the federal, state, and local levels must make public health a national priority.
Public health professionals fill vital roles in homeland security preparedness. One of these roles is to ensure that government decision makers are well informed on issues that may affect the life and health of - perhaps not all, but at least most of - their community members.