What does an emergency response coordinator do?
First, I’m not a doctor, nurse or even a sanitarian. I plan for public health emergency preparedness; plan for disease response for the County; and cost plan for the response and items needed for plan development and follow-through.
I work under an Ohio Department of Health grant issued through the federal Centers for Disease Control. The grant is called Public Health Emergency Preparedness. It allows the Meigs County Health Department to adhere to ODH and CDC mandates without using local funds.
Some past preparedness items that the MCHD planned for are:
- Ebola response (with our local partners);
- An H1N1 Influenza Pandemic Response Plan (2009);
- Various changes to our annual flu vaccination plan;
- Ohio River Medical Mission (2015), along with other partners;
- A Continuity of Operations Plan (if, for whatever reason, the MCHD cannot provide services from its offices);
- Power outage planning through the use of a generator that serves the Meigs Multi-purpose Heath Center in which the MCHD is situated. (The generator was an expense funded entirely with 2009 PHEP grant money). The whole building can be powered including the MCHD, Woodland Centers, Meigs Tuberculosis Clinic and the Meigs County Council on Aging.
All of these agencies can remain operational and offer services when weather causes long-term power outages. The Meigs Multipurpose Health Center can be offered and used by the public as refuge during long term power outages.
Through the PHEP grant, many deliverables are given to meet with no additional supportive grant funds. Some of the deliverables require working hand-in-hand with our Meigs County partners and our regional partners.
Our county partners are:
- Meigs Emergency Management Agency.
- Local Emergency Planning Committee.
- Meigs 9-1-1.
- Meigs Emergency Medical Services.
- Local medical providers (Holzer Clinic & ER, Dr. Hunter and others).
- Meigs Sheriff’s Office.
- Local law enforcement and fire personnel.
Locally, I have designed and implemented the past two EMA/LEPC State EMA-mandated Haz-Mat exercises, chaired tabletop discussions and exercises involving H1N1 and Ebola preparations, and perform duties as the Meigs EMA/LEPC ERC and public information officer, as requested.
Our regional partners are:
- Surrounding local health departments, including Athens, Vinton, Jackson, Gallia, Pike, Lawrence, Ross, Hocking and Scioto counties
- South Central Regional Public Health and Healthcare Consortium, which includes the previously mentioned LHDs and regional hospitals, and the Ohio Hospital Association.
- Regional PHEP coordinators from above mentioned LHDs.
The regional partners coordinate efforts for regional PH plans, meeting regional deliverables, and sharing communications and information about various PH topics. We exercise monthly with Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS) and quarterly with other communications systems. We have monthly meetings about regional plan updates, ODH changes and reporting on local issues and plans. We participate in annual tabletop exercises; over the past three years we exercised on new communicable disease transmission, displacement and recovery from an earthquake and regional Ebola response. These exercises provide data and lessons learned on the performance of our plans in each county as well as regionally.
Through all of these partnerships, local regional and state we have designed an All-Hazards Emergency Response Plan for the county and the region. From Class A Reportable Diseases (ODH reporting term) to natural hazards (floods, tornadoes, earthquakes) to explosives, nuclear weapons to other mass casualty situations, the Meigs County Health Department has a plan to deal with all hazards.
Finally, the MCHD and our regional partners are working on a response plan for the Zika virus.
To quote Val (Kevin Bacon) from the movie Tremors, “I got me a plan!” Experience shows that, with a little bit of planning and foresight, we can have a relatively safe and enjoyable existence.
Frank Gorscak is emergency response coordinator for the Meigs County Health Department.