OAK BROOK – After the recent flooding in Illinois, in which 24 counties were declared state disaster areas, the need for continued emergency preparedness became evident. Under Governor Blagojevich’s leadership, hundreds of Illinois National Guard troops were dispatched to help shore up levees, conservation police officers helped rescue people when some of those levees broke, and safe water to drink and medical care was made available to those affected by the flooding.
Now, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is teaming up with the Illinois Public Health Association for the 2008 Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Summit: “Exercising & Assessing the Heartland” to ensure Illinois is prepared for whatever health emergency may arise in the future.
“While I was touring areas hit hard by the recent heavy rainfall and flooding, I saw a tremendous coordinated effort between state departments, county agencies, local health departments, and local groups to ensure the public’s health and safety,” said Governor Blagojevich. “We were able to respond quickly to the emergency, because we were prepared. The 2008 Illinois Public Health Emergency Preparedness Summit is an example of how we prepare to respond quickly to emergencies like the recent flooding, to minimize the impact.”
The Summit is designed to ensure emergency personnel, hospitals, emergency response agencies, public health departments, and others are prepared for an emergency. During the three-day summit, attendees have the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions, attend workshops, listen to nationally acclaimed guest speakers, and network with others about how best to prepare for natural disasters, environmental health accidents, terrorist attacks, and disease outbreaks.
“Emergency preparedness is one of the state’s top priorities and we are committed to ensuring our partners at local health departments, hospitals, emergency medical services agencies, and beyond have the knowledge and the tools they need to keep their communities safe during a crisis,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director.
Summit keynote speakers include:
- Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, U.S. Army (Retired) – led the U.S. Department of Defense response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
- George S. Everly Jr., Ph.D., ABPP, FAPM Johns Hopkins University – addressing the dynamics of terrorism, pandemics and how to foster resilience for public health personnel.
- Jeffrey H. Norwitz, U.S. Naval War College – presenting on today’s military and how the current war has created ethical and moral leaders who will shape American society for the next three generations.
“The emergency preparedness summit provides IPHA members with an opportunity to partner with other state and local agencies to strengthen the emergency preparedness and response system in Illinois,” said James Nelson, executive director, Illinois Public Health Association.
A variety of workshops, exercises and roundtable discussions will take place during the summit and cover such topics as pandemic flu, sheltering needs, developing a medical reserve corps, psychology of terrorism, and planning for dispensing medicines and supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Following an in-depth assessment, the CDC gave high marks to Illinois’ Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) plan to distribute necessary medications and medical supplies during an emergency. Illinois was one of only seven states in the nation to receive a perfect score for the state’s Emergency Health and Medical Preparedness Planning, from the Trust for America’s Health Annual Survey in December 2007.
Governor Blagojevich has made state preparedness one of his top priorities and has taken decisive leadership through actions, including:
· Health Department Exercises: IDPH, working in cooperation with local health departments, annually exercise SNS dispending plans which assure all residents of the county, and therefore the state, will receive needed medications.
· Tabletop Exercises: IDPH coordinated with local health departments to conduct 14 tabletop exercises on pandemic influenza in 2006, designed to document specific action steps and resources needed to improve preparedness efforts in the state. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois State Board of Education were among the agencies participating in tabletop exercises, along with local health departments, hospitals and other health care organizations.
· FLUEX 2006: An ambitious three-day exercise held in May 2006 tested the state’s preparedness for handling a major health crisis and simultaneous terrorist attacks. More than 50 representatives from state and federal agencies and the American Red Cross reported to the State Incident Response Center (SIRC) within the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield, to participate in the exercise.
· Prairie Thunder Exercise: The state conducted a major five-day emergency response exercise in the Metro-East area in August 2006 to test the state’s ability to respond to large-scale emergencies, which included a mass evacuation and sheltering component. The exercise brought federal, state and local response organizations together in a coordinated response to multiple emergency scenarios that included intelligence gathering and response to simulated terrorist attacks, distribution of materials from the Strategic National Stockpile, victim search and rescue efforts, and establishment of a field hospital for treating “victims.”
· SNS Presentation: In February 2007 the Illinois SNS team presented at the Local, State and Federal Public Health Preparedness Summit in Washington, D.C. Illinois’ SNS team, selected from more than 300 submissions from public health officials nationwide, will provide insight on the state’s coordinated preparedness efforts in a presentation entitled, “The Amazing SNS Race: Collaboration Between State Agencies to Get to the Finish.” Illinois was selected to highlight its efforts, due to the fact the state has achieved the highest ranking during the past three years for its plan to use local health departments to dispense medications and supplies.