OSDH Prepares for Public Health Emergencies and Disasters
For Release: Sept. 06, 2018 – Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications - (405) 271-5601
Oklahoma is no stranger to natural disasters and emergencies. In recognition of September’s National Preparedness Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is spotlighting its Emergency Preparedness and Response Service (EPRS) and its role in coordinating public health and medical system emergency response planning and operations for the agency.
The EPRS administers a Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Hospital Preparedness Program grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS). The office also oversees supplemental grants for emergency response to public health threats such as Ebola in 2014 and Zika virus in 2016.
The primary mission of the EPRS is to establish agency plans and procedures for response to the health and medical needs of the state in the event of an emergency, and coordinate with the federal health agencies for any needed assistance. As part of its mission, EPRS utilizes federal preparedness grant funding to support the state’s Regional Medical Response System, and works year-round with health care coalitions across Oklahoma to plan and prepare for disasters. This includes conducting and participating in regular exercises and drills.
During emergency activations, the EPRS coordinates with and provides critical information to medical partners and local health departments as part of the agency’s assigned role at the State Emergency Operations Center. These efforts allow for response planning and joint agency support designed to address the health and medical needs of Oklahomans. This can include working with partners to reestablish services such as home health, dialysis treatment and nursing home care.
"The goal of any response is to get the medical system back to normal operations as quickly as possible and ensure the health and medical needs of all Oklahomans are met,” said OSDH Emergency Manager Darrell Eberly. “Through local partnerships, coalition support, and trained personnel, the OSDH is prepared to complete this mission.”
To prepare for public health emergencies such as an infectious disease response, the OSDH maintains internal capabilities, both at the state and local level, designed to minimize serious illness and deaths caused by an infectious disease. OSDH also partners with the CDC to administer the state’s Strategic National Stockpile, which was established to ensure access to large amounts of medication and equipment in the event of a large-scale disaster. At the state level, planning is focused on receiving and distributing supplies with the assistance of other state agencies which provide security, transportation, warehouse needs and coordinated planning. Local county health departments then work with community partners to prepare for mass dispensing of stockpile medication.
To ensure the message of preparedness is available to all populations, accommodation for those with access and functional needs is provided by assisting organizations in developing policies and plans for reasonable accommodation and inclusion to people with disabilities, senior citizens and children. OSDH staff work closely with partners providing emergency shelters to ensure the shelter is accessible.
Another program coordinated by the OSDH is the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps (OKMRC), the state’s only medical and public health volunteer program. It is a statewide system comprised of local units and state specialty teams to respond during emergencies and disasters. Volunteers serving in medical and non-medical capacities are trained prior to disasters to ensure a coordinated response. There are more than 5,500 volunteers registered across the state.
In effort to prepare Oklahomans for any disaster, the OSDH encourages the public to have an emergency kit with enough food, water and medical supplies to sustain their family and pets for three days. It is important for families to have a plan for evacuation, and also for communication in the event cell service is not available.
Medication and supplies are inventoried, stored and prepared to distribute statewide in the event of a public health emergency.
Staff from county health departments respond to disaster sites to offer first aid and immunizations.
Drills and exercises with state and federal partners are held to prepare for an infectious disease outbreak.
Volunteers with the OKMRC practice first aid and CPR during an exercise.