September is National Preparedness Month, a time to reflect on past emergencies, lessons learned and to continue planning for the future. FEMA’s campaign, “Today is the Day Before: Are you ready for tomorrow?” highlights the need for remembering past mistakes in order to be more successful in the future.
On December 17, 1964, the 57-man Oregon State football team flew to the Rose Bowl to face Michigan. With Oregon playing in the bowl rather than a team from California, Oregon was expecting a hostile crowd. On December 18, 1954, after heavy snowfall and record rains, Central Oregon was swamped with a once-every-thousand-years flood. More than 30 bridges became impassable and sections of Salem’s surrounding highways were under water. Water pressure from sewers shot gushing waste water out of manholes. More than 100 patients were evacuated from a hospital. After floodwater swamped a sewage treatment plant, raw sewage began flowing into the Willamette River. One man died when a bridge collapsed. The National Weather Service called it “the most severe rainstorm” in Central Oregon’s history. This emergency highlights the need for reflection and preparation. Today is the day before: are you ready for tomorrow?
As most of you are aware, we are facing the worst fire season since 2002 — public health programs are coordinating risk communications of droughts, fires and waterborne outbreaks as I write. I would like to take a moment to thank the other state agencies for their leadership during the current fire fighting efforts, namely the Department of Forestry and the State Fire Marshall’s Office. I would also like to thank Baker, Douglas and Josephine county staffs who have put in the many hours to support their whole communities. This shows that community resiliency isn’t something being talked about, but it really is happening.
September also begins the HSPR Program’s annual preparedness conference. The CDC liaisons have been working hard to organize a blockbuster conference. The goal for the conference is coordinating across jurisdictions and ensuring local health authorities, the tribes, hospital partners and other key community partners know who to contact, and how and when to reach back to the state. I hope you can join us September 11–13 in Central Oregon. For more information on sessions or conference logistics, please contact Justin Schumacher or Tiffany Stafford.
As summer ends, the fall begins and it’s time to start preparing for winter storms and flooding. The Health Security, Preparedness and Response (HSPR) Program is reviewing plans and procedures to prepare for any winter storm activations. The HSPR communications team has been busy working with other key public health programs to review the Risk Communication Toolkit for Flooding. If you have any feedback on last year’s messaging or have questions about risk communications, please contact Kathleen Vidoloff. The more planning we can do now, the more successful our response will be and the more likely it will successfully protect the public’s health.
For us to be able to do preparedness work in Oregon, we work closely with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to manage grants and follow through with key deliverables. We received our final budget numbers and were not surprised by the numbers. CDC and ASPR projected some losses, for which we had been planning. Overall, Oregon saw reductions in our preparedness grants, the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness reduction (PHEP) was 4.91%, in the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) it was 8.07%, and in ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) the reduction was 5.47%. These reductions caused us to make difficult decisions, but working with public health leadership, Conference of Local Health Officials, the tribes, and our health care coalition preparedness partners, we are able to focus our work efforts now on “Surge Management.” This work will be the primary focus of both PHEP and HPP so that we can continue to develop partnerships, update plans, and conduct training and exercises that improve our overall state resiliency.
A key deliverable Richard Leman has been leading is the Crisis Care Strategies plan. The Crisis Care plan would be used in the event that a disaster overwhelmed local authorities and hospitals. Several focus groups have met to discuss and provide feedback on the recommendations. We also value your input and would like you to provide us with feedback on the recommendations. Please visit our preparedness month page and submit your comments.
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