Locals learn about public health preparedness

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Stacie Kelly, emergency services coordinator with the Riverside County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Branch, spoke to attendees at the Aug. 14 Mountain Emergency Service Committee meeting about what her department offers the community. Her agency partners with the county’s Office of Emergency Services whenever a county emergency is declared.

“We focus on the medical portion of emergency response when they activate the Emergency Operations Center,” Kelly stated. This includes all varieties of emergencies, from natural disasters such as flood, fire and earthquake to public health emergencies and epidemics such as influenza.

“For example, we’ve already held a conference call and are preparing in case the Ebola virus came here,” she said.

PHEPR’s responsibility is very broad, including ensuring hospitals have prepared emergency plans. Its staff also ensure that emergency trailers throughout the county have supplies. These are located at hospitals and at many county fire stations. Also, a warehouse is stocked with supplies.

The agency provides vaccines for many viral infections such as influenza H1N1, smallpox and anthrax. Supplies must be adequate to initially inoculate first responders so they may safely then assist and help community residents.

The Medical Volunteer Program, which includes the Medical Resource Group, falls under PHEPR’s aegis too. Its website states: “The Riverside County Medical Volunteer Program is a community-based civilian volunteer initiative that utilizes local health care professionals and others to build and support the public health infrastructure of our community and address a wide range of challenges from public health education to disaster response.”

The county needs more medical volunteers. It is seeking medical, medical support and mental health professionals as well as volunteers. For more information on medical volunteering, call Riverside County Medical Volunteer Coordinator Martin Baxter at 951-358-7100.

PHEPR’s website says it concentrates on the following activities: “preparedness planning and readiness; surveillance and epidemiological capacity; laboratory capacity; communications and information technology; risk communication and health information dissemination; and education and training.”

 

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