CINCINNATI—Whether public emergencies take the form of severe weather, mass casualty incidents or chemical or radiation emergencies, these widespread events require action not only from health officials and first responders but also from a prepared and educated general population.
As part of the 10th annual National Preparedness Month this September, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, officials have released easy-to-understand guidelines on how citizens, families and workers can prepare for their safety during a public crisis.
"In today's world of both natural and man-made crises, the need for individual preparedness has never been more evident,” says Dustin Calhoun, MD, UC assistant professor of emergency medicine in the division of emergency medical services. "While local, state, and federal agencies have many programs designed to mitigate and respond to these events, such organizations are never as close to the incident or as affected by it as the individuals in the population.”
Calhoun specifically recommends resources set up by the American Red Cross and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including their site, "Emergency Preparedness and You,” which explains key steps of preparedness. Those include:
- Gathering emergency supplies.
- Learning how to shelter in place.
- Understanding quarantine and isolation.
- Learning how to maintain a healthy state of mind.
These skills are especially useful in large-scale disasters, when first responders and health officials may be called to the worst of the event and unable to respond to all private businesses or homes.
"It is extremely important for each person and family to develop and maintain some level of preparedness to protect and sustain themselves for the initial hours to days of an emergency, during which outside assistance may not be available,” says Calhoun. "This preparedness should include material supplies such as water, lighting, and first aid.”
He adds that proper preparedness must include a solid foundation of knowledge—"including an understanding of how to use all the supplies in one's cache and how to perform important first aid tasks.”