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Preparing Our Communities to Withstand Disasters

September 30, 2014

If you're looking for Esther Chernak, MD, MPH, FACP, director of the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication (CPHRC), her office is easy to find - there's a "go bag" right inside her office door.

It comes as no surprise that the team of disaster preparedness experts in the CPHRC are well prepared, but their diligence in working with local and state partners has advanced preparedness in our communities on the whole. For today's #Prepareathon at the close of National Preparedness Month, we sat down with Dr. Chernak, associate professor in Environmental Health in Drexel University's School of Public Health, to get an update on the Center's role in regional disaster preparedness efforts.

Most recently, the Center developed a tool kit to assist primary care medical practices in the community to handle everything from a major snow storm to helping patients with special needs during all sorts of emergency situations. The free toolkit is now being rolled out to state-wide medical professional organizations.

"Primary care practices are often so busy that disaster planning is the last thing they can get to," said Chernak. "However, having a plan in place in case can ensure that patients with special needs can safely weather any storm. It can also ease financial concerns for the practice that result from power outages (where expensive vaccines and allergy shots need to stay refrigerated) or lost business days. The CPHRC team is cosponsoring a training series of 6 webinars during the month of November, where practices can learn how to prepare their practices and high-risk patients for disasters. The Pennsylvania Department of Health sponsored the project.

The team is also getting ready to release a library of social media messages for over 20 different disaster types that can be used by public health and healthcare organizations large and small during emergency situations. Oftentimes, patients take to social media to find out how an emergency may affect them personally, and these messages will help practices and public health agencies communicate effectively to their patients and community during a variety of scenarios.

Urgent care clinics, pharmacies and pediatric practices are next on the list of community projects for the Center. They'll be focusing on establishing best practices for everything from preparing for a surge of patients or making sure patients have access to their prescription medications during storms or flu season, to integrating these groups into regional disaster plans.

To get the latest on how Drexel's Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication is contributing to public health practice and preparedness, crisis and emergency risk communication, and community readiness for emergencies, check out the recently updated CPHRC website. Now go pack your "go bag"!