This September, our nation is marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Observances have been planned and much has been written about the events that occurred 10 years ago. Many of us remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the first attack against the World Trade Center. It is a time to remember, not only that day but what has occurred as a result of 9/11. That is a discussion many of us will have in the next few days and weeks.
It is also a time to prepare, and September has been designated as National Preparedness Month (NPM), an event founded after 9/11 to increase preparedness in the United States. This event, now in its eighth year, is a nationwide, month-long effort is hosted by the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps to encourage households, business and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies.
The Washington County Health Department is proud to be a part of the planning and preparedness initiatives which actually began in 2000 with the development of regional coordination of a health alert network. A regional coordinator was hired at that time to work with neighboring health departments and communities to be prepared in the event of a public health emergency.
Since 9/11, WCHD has expanded the role of the regional coordinator and added a local preparedness planner to work with businesses, hospitals, local government and residents to plan for emergency events such as pandemic flu, anthrax exposure, floods, and other natural, biological, or man-made disasters. The Health Department meets regularly with public health officials in 11 counties in southeast Ohio to share information and help develop plans for mutual assistance should an event occur that is larger than any one community can handle.
Washington County and the Health Department have developed plans and have exercised those plans throughout the past ten years. During that time, Health Department staff has worked with community and business leaders across the county to be prepared for public health emergencies.
Many plans are in place, but planning and preparedness are continuous processes and involve the entire community including families and individuals as well. Are you and your family prepared in the event of an emergency that may cause you to be self-reliant for three days without utilities and electricity, water service, access to a supermarket or local services, or maybe even without response from police, fire or rescue? Preparing can start with three important steps:
1. Get an emergency supply kit
2. Make a plan for what to do in an emergency
3. Be informed about emergencies that could happen in your community, and identify sources of information in your community that will be helpful before, during and after an emergency.
Be sure to include a list of medications you or family members may need as well as a meeting place where members can gather in your planning.
For more information on preparing for local emergencies, please contact the Washington County Health Department or check out our website at www.washco-ohhealth.org. We have printed information as well as staff available to help you with preparedness planning. Another reliable source for information can be found at www.Ready.gov. The WCHD is a health department for all of Washington County and we want to help you prepare. Let's work together to make September a time for remembering and a time for preparing.
Kathleen Meckstroth is executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.