Public Health’s Role in Disaster Preparedness

In the fall of 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) challenged all Americans, regardless of their discipline, field or expertise, to pitch their ideas about how to prepare their communities before disasters strike and how the government should support community-based activities to help everyone be more prepared. The winning submission was a program called “Map Your Neighborhood” designed to encourage neighbors to draw evacuation and rescue maps, as well as list the resources and services each neighbor would provide in the event of a disaster. The idea was simple, did not require a large group to participate, and taught the skills of preparedness.

Preparedness and public health are practically synonymous. You cannot be a public health professional without thinking about your role in potential emergencies. Devastating disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the attacks on 9/11 have re-confirmed the fact that preparedness is key to rebuilding a community post disaster. But they have also helped public health professionals realize their efforts can be greater if they align with others in their community.

Building and strengthening community-based disaster coalitions in not a new concept, but strengthening and strategically aligning the efforts of the government with other organizations and businesses in the community is certainly gaining more momentum.

Florida is certainly making great strides in developing and strengthening their county coalitions. Read about their efforts on the CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog post entitled: “Creating and Strengthening Community-based Coalitions.”

Consider the role of disaster planning and preparedness as you fill out your Professional Development Action Plan. Is this part of your career path? What about completing a training or taking a course on this topic as a way to fulfill the FPHTC OMP program guidelines?

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