The Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Program is in charge of developing plans for public health emergencies in Philadelphia. We work hard every day to make sure that we can respond to public health emergencies.
We write our plans as all-hazards plans. All-hazards means that our plans can be used for lots of different kinds of emergencies, instead of having a different plan for each different kind of emergency.
All-hazards planning helps us keep our plans up to date because we only have to update one plan. An all-hazards plan also gives us the ability to respond to emergencies that we had not specifically planned for.
As we write our plans, we have to make sure that they will work in an emergency. To do this, we exercise, or test, the plans by actually doing what we say we’ll do in the plans. These exercises can be very small, like calling partners to make sure that their phone numbers are up to date in our plans. The exercises can also be very large, like when we test our emergency medication warehouse. More than 30 PDPH employees and police officers staff the emergency medication warehouse. They work to give medications to partners from more than 50 partner organizations.
Sometimes, we have to use our plans in an actual public health emergency. The best example of this happening recently was during the H1N1 influenza pandemic. We set up a mass medication clinic to give a second dose of H1N1 influenza vaccine to hundreds of children all at once. When something like this happens, we make sure to follow the plan exactly and keep detailed records of what happened. After the emergency ends, we make sure to sit down and review how well the plan worked.
Public health emergencies are very complex problems. We work closely with a variety of partners to help with planning for them.
The Bioterorrism and Public Health Preparedness Program works with other programs in the Division of Disease Control, like the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program, the Epidemiology Unit, and the Immunization Program.
One of the most important parts of responding to public health emergencies is being able to communicate with the first responders, employees and the public. PDPH has many tools to help us communicate in an emergency.
One of the most important ways we can get information out in an emergency is by our Health Bulletin. The Health Bulletin is a newsletter that comes out four times a year, with Special Editions whenever there is a disease outbreak that you should know about. We have published Special Editions for a shigella outbreak and for H1N1 influenza.
We can get information to doctors and nurses and people who work in the healthcare industry quickly by using our Health Alert Network. The Health Alert Network sends out Health Alerts written for people with clinical training whenever there is some new recommendation or disease outbreak that they should know about.
We encourage everyone to sign up to receive emergency text alerts from ReadyNotifyPA. By registering, you can start to receive alerts about severe weather, road closures, emergencies (including public health) and crime alerts for your neighborhood.