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August 16
Get Social: Using Online Networks to Advance Health Security

You probably know that Americans of all ages use social media, but did you know that social media has emerged as a critical resource for the public in disasters, providing timely situational awareness, preparedness guidance, and emergency assistance?

According to the American Red Cross, one in five people will try an online channel for help if unable to reach EMS in an emergency. Many emergency services, health organizations, and even news and government agencies also depend on social media for vital information in crisis and disaster events.

Whether your agency or organization is already using social media regularly or you are considering starting an account, here are four things you can do to enhance your audience outreach and engagement while advancing national health security.

Luck Favors the Prepared

Make sure that you don’t miss opportunities by having a great plan for your social media accounts. Whether you have an active social media account or are just starting out, take a moment to consider your social media plan and the way that it fits into your overall communications plan. Check out the lessons learned and planning tools that CDC has made available through the Health Communicators Social Media Toolkit.

Be ready to keep the conversation going throughout the year. Check out the National Seasonal Preparedness Messaging Calendar to help you learn about conversations on preparedness that will be going on throughout the year.

Learn your ABCs: Amplify, Borrow, Communicate

You know that disasters happen every day across the country – but did you realize that there are a number of existing toolkits that have been developed by federal agencies to teach people about disaster preparedness and to help them recover?

Use existing resources effectively to help you plan and give you more time to focus on the concerns that relate specifically to your area. CDC, ASPR and SAMHSA teamed up to create a library of Public Service Announcements for Disasters. The library contains seven-second videos on YouTube and Vine, short-form messages that are perfect for tweets and texts, longer-form scripts with key facts and statistics, and much more. The toolkit has pre-scripted messages that can help your followers understand everything from staying safe in the wake of a flood to helping dialysis-dependent individuals prepare for disasters.

In addition, CDC has developed a number of infographics and videos that can easily be incorporated into your social media plan. Check out the great graphics they have already developed on issues like extreme heat, hurricanes, tornadoes, and more. also offers a wide range of social media toolkits, from flood and hurricane safety to preparedness month.

Expand your Network

Think about the people your agency or organization connects with every day – from hospitals and clinics to community leaders and partner organizations. Consider following them to expand your social network. If you have a big event or important announcement, reach out to your partners and ask them to share your posts.

Many neighborhoods and communities have group pages on social media channels where residents have conversations. Join these and look for opportunities to ask for volunteers or exchange advice on fun community health-building activities.

Get Behind the Camera

Videos and photos continue to be critical tools for online engagement. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Take pictures! Think about the things that make your organization unique. Do you work with volunteers in the field? Support vaccination drives? Conduct preparedness drills? Next time you do, make sure that someone brings a camera. Look for opportunities to capture moments that connect your audience to your mission or key priorities.
  • Record educational videos with experts on specific topics that relate to health security, like building community resilience. Keep your videos short and high energy, and use messages that the general public will understand. Take it up a notch by using online resources that make videos using only moving text and animated graphics.
  • Know of any events in your area that are examples of community health resilience or health security activities in action, such as health fairs, volunteer events, block parties, or other preparedness activities? Attend and take photos or videos of them to show your audience what national health security looks like so they know how they can support it. Be sure to use professional equipment to ensure high-quality images or sound.

Create a Two-Way Connection

With millions of Americans engaging with each other through neighborhood-based platforms, local public agencies and organizations are reaching the people within their community like never before.

Create and staff a dedicated account that allows real-time communication with area residents that is focused on important public health and safety topics. Use this channel to answer questions, solicit feedback, and ask for engagement on community activities.

A social media communication strategy is only one part of a larger communication effort, and should be integrated into your overall communication planning, activities and data collection. Therefore, over-arching communication goals should be considered when developing social media activities.

Integrating social media into disaster health communication campaigns and activities allows health communicators to leverage social dynamics and networks to encourage participation, conversation and community – all of which can help members of your community make better decisions when seconds count.

To learn more about national health security activities, visit

August 16
Whatever it takes: Medical Reserve Corps volunteers leverage eastern tradition to aid behavioral health after disasters

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, managers at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York asked the nearby Lincoln Recovery Center to provide respite and ear acupuncture treatment for staff and first responders impacted by the tragedy. Some of those treated reported that after treatment they slept better than they had in days or weeks.

Lincoln Recovery had developed an ear acupuncture treatment called the NADA protocol to assist substance abuse detoxification and recovery support in concert with other behavioral health interventions. The successful use of this technique for behavioral health support in the aftermath of September 11 inspired much of its use since then to ease tension and improve behavioral health after major disasters.

The benefits of acupuncture have long been accepted in eastern medicine and continue to be discovered and studied in western medicine. One of the strengths of acupuncture is believed to be the release of endorphins; in addition, the time spent in quiet relaxation during acupuncture can benefit blood pressure and calm the central nervous system’s response to stress, trauma, and pain. Acupuncture resources, knowledge, and expertise are still growing in the disaster response community and within the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) network of almost 200,000 volunteers.

In 2008, an acupuncturist in Santa Barbara, California, experienced the terror of being trapped in a local wildfire and that traumatic event prompted her to volunteer her skills in her community afterwards with her local Medical Reserve Corps unit.

Not long after, in Oregon, the State Department of Health made efforts to standardize roles for acupuncturists in a disaster and to register acupuncturists in their state Emergency System for Advanced Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP).

Around the same time, an MRC leader and member of the National Disaster Medical System’s New Mexico Disaster Medical Assistance Team began teaching a specific acupuncture protocol to high school students on the Native American Reservation of Jemez Pueblo as part of community resiliency and wellness efforts. Today, efforts are underway to form a statewide Integrative Wellness MRC in New Mexico that not only could provide disaster support but also could provide services to veterans managing PTSD and addiction.

After a catastrophic flood in Boulder County, Colorado, in 2013, a local psychiatric nurse and acupuncturist founded the first MRC unit specializing in acupuncture, the Colorado Acupuncture MRC (CAMRC). Local emergency management officials requested stress relief for the staff at the Emergency Operations Center, and that request grew into a larger mission to help the thousands of local residents and first responders receive acupuncture treatments in the first six weeks after the event. CAMRC continued to offer support with smaller community clinics for two years.

In 2015, CAMRC responded to the recovery efforts after the Colorado Springs shooter incident. These MRC volunteers supported the community and first responders at the Disaster Assistance Center and were requested to return the following week for a private clinic for the first responder community. The goal in providing the acupuncture treatment was to foster and restore the resilience and independence of people affected by the tragic incident so that they could rebuild their lives and communities.

Since then, the CAMRC has responded to multiple fires supporting incident command personnel in staging areas and staff and residents in disaster assistance centers, and the CAMRC continues to provide recovery care in fire houses and community centers in Colorado. The team even supported an acupuncture response team in Orlando, Florida, after the Pulse active shooter incident in 2016.

The CAMRC also has been instrumental in developing an Acupuncture Mission Ready Package (MRP), which describes the mission and capabilities of acupuncture services post-disaster. The MRP can be utilized across the United States and integrates within FEMA’s National Disaster Framework. This package describes the role, training, and supplies needed to provide treatment in a disaster setting and outlines its benefits:

  • Auricular (ear) acupuncture is low cost and does not require participants to speak or share their experiences.
  • The treatment can be given in any setting; supplies are mobile and can be kept on the practitioner.
  • Auricular acupuncture protocols can be used for pain, behavioral health, psycho-social conditions, digestion, sleep, traumatic stress and more.
  • Treatments are geared toward supporting resiliency in communities, aiding emergency responders and community members affected by disasters/critical incidents and traumatic events.

The CAMRC continues to educate emergency planners on the use of acupuncture after a disaster for both responders and survivors. They received an MRC NACCHO Challenge Award to conduct research and collect evidence supporting acupuncture in the MRC network to relieve symptoms of stress due to a life-event or events. CAMRC has partnered with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Psychology Department Clinical Assessment of Injury, Recovery and Resilience (CAIRR) Neuroscience Lab to evaluate the findings. This data will be released in the fall in an effort to foster the development of additional acupuncture MRC units across the United States.

In other parts of the country, MRC units are incorporating acupuncture into their own response and recovery efforts as well. In Texas, for example, an MRC unit began developing acupuncture capabilities following severe flooding in 2015 and 2016. These efforts led to the development of ear acupressure guidance, inspired by an acupuncturist and MRC in Texas and developed by NADA leadership that can be used in the absence of an acupuncturist or until one can be found. Most recently, the Nassau County MRC in New York began to train members in providing treatment in a disaster setting, inspired after experiencing the effects of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

To learn more about acupuncture and its uses in the disaster, substance abuse, and behavioral health communities, check out these resources:

August 09
Influenza, Measles, and Tetanus: Preventing the Spread of Life-Threatening Diseases during Disasters and Every Day

Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives. Routine vaccination protects people from 18 dangerous or deadly diseases. There are many reasons to stay up-to-date on your vaccinations and to make sure that your family members get vaccinated, but here’s one that you might not have thought of: vaccination can help keep you healthy when disaster strikes.

Immunizations are especially important in the wake of disasters for residents who have to evacuate their homes. In any public place, you’ll be exposed to illnesses of other people, and that’s the case in emergency shelters, too. Also after disasters, safe water or sanitation facilities may be unavailable; you may have uncertain access to health care services. The underlying health of the community can influence the risk of communicable diseases after a disaster. Epidemics after natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and drought can build rapidly or slowly, with serious health, social, and economic consequences. Staying up to date with your vaccines could make all the difference in keeping you and your family healthy after a disaster.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a great time to learn about the vaccines you and your family need to stay healthy. People of all ages benefit from immunizations, and they are particularly important for people who are most vulnerable to serious complications, such as infants and young children, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.


Staying up-to-date on vaccines is important for adults, especially for medical providers and first responders who are on the front lines during emergencies. Vaccinations can reduce the risk of illness, disability, and death due to vaccine preventable diseases so you’re healthy and available to serve your community when you’re needed most.

The prevalence of vaccine-preventable illnesses is actually higher for adults than it is for children. Despite long-standing recommendations, many adults – particularly older adults – just don’t get the vaccines they need to prevent illness.

Immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill and pass diseases on to others. Immunizations are the key to stopping preventable diseases before they start.

While most adults should get an annual flu vaccine and get a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough) vaccine every ten years, the vaccines adults need vary pretty widely, depending on your age, occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations you have already received, or other considerations.

Pregnant Women

Vaccines are essential to a healthy pregnancy, protecting both the mother and her baby from illnesses and complications. Women should be up to date on their vaccinations before becoming pregnant. Most women should receive vaccines against both flu and whooping cough during pregnancy – and so should the people who will be around the baby, such as the father and grandparents. Some women may need to receive vaccines after giving birth.

Babies and Children

Childhood immunizations are critical to protecting everyday health – but they are even more important in the wake of a disaster.

For the best protection, parents should follow the recommended immunization schedule – giving children the vaccines they need, when they need them. Babies receive vaccinations that help protect them from 14 diseases by age 2.

After age 2, children still are recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccine, and children are due for additional doses of some vaccines between 4 and 6 years of age. However, if a child falls behind schedule, they can still get vaccinated to “catch-up” before adolescence. By following recommended immunization schedules through early childhood and into the preteen and teen years, parents can send their kids to middle school, high school and college assured that they are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases and better prepared for a disaster.

Take the Next Step

Talk to your doctor, local community clinic, pharmacist, or other health care provider to find out which vaccinations you and your family need, and then make sure you keep them up to date. Before you go, take the time to learn about vaccines and immunizations that are available so that you are ready to discuss the options that give the best protection to you and your family during disasters and every day.

To learn more about national health security, visit

August 02
In High Demand: How Health Centers Can Build Surge Capacity, Support People with Access and Functional Needs, and Advance National Health Security

Our nation’s network of nearly 1,400 community health centers play a vital role in providing health care services to almost 25 million patients, including 8.4 million patients in rural health centers. When a disaster strikes, they have a key role in supporting national health security by continuing to provide services to the people they care for every day.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, community health centers serve 1 out of every 3 people living in poverty in the U.S. They provide care to people with a wide range of access and functional needs, including people with limited English proficiency, those who rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, and people with chronic conditions. They promote prenatal health and they serve people from infancy to old age.

Community health centers represent a unique focus for surge capacity because they sit on the front lines of health in the communities they serve. As a usual place of care, health centers represent sites where patients may be in the first stages of a disaster. Community health centers and other outpatient facilities also play a vital role in addressing the needs of patients with both acute and chronic conditions, reducing stress on hospital emergency rooms. In order for the centers to protect health and save lives when disaster strikes, they need to have a robust plan to sustain their operations and handle a surge of patients.

The first step in addressing medical surge and medical system resiliency is to implement systems that can effectively manage medical and health response, as well as the development and maintenance of preparedness programs. Preparing for medical surge and other issues in a disaster takes a multi-faced approach. The 2017-2022 Health Care Preparedness and Response Capabilities guidance describes what the health care delivery system, including health care centers, have to do to effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies that impact the public’s health.

Focusing on asset management, resource allocation, and coalition coordination are three central elements to building a Medical Surge Capacity and Capability (MSCC) Management System. The HHS Medical Surge Capacity and Capability Guide offers a methodology for community health centers and healthcare facilities alike to plan for resilient surge capacity.

Community health centers should also consider ways that they can partner with other health care entities in their community, like hospitals, public health, emergency management, emergency medical services, state agencies, and other health care and community organizations. These partnerships are forged through health care coalitions, a collaborative network of health care organizations and their respective public and private sector emergency response partners.

Health care coalitions are comprised of a wide variety of partners, including but not limited to hospitals, emergency medical services, emergency management and public health agencies that serve as a multiagency coordinating group to assist with preparedness, detection, response, recovery, and mitigation activities related to healthcare service delivery during a disaster or large scale emergency.

There are nearly 500 health care coalitions throughout the nation. Working together, community health centers, along with other members of health care coalitions, can enhance emergency operations and define ways that they can support one another before, during and after a disaster. Withstanding disaster means our health care centers and entire health care infrastructure can care for people even in the worst of times, and that, in turn, advances our national health security. To get started, check out these planning resources.

For more information on national health security, visit

August 02
New Frontiers and Extreme Environments: BARDA and NASA Join Forces to Better Protect the American Public and Astronauts from Radiation Injury

Although an odd couple at first glance, NASA and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the office of the HHS ASPR share a common interest: protecting people from radiation injury.

NASA and BARDA officials finalize memorandum of understanding

NASA conducts radiation research because in space, especially on longer missions, there’s a real danger from radiation. Astronauts can be exposed to low doses of chronic cosmic radiation and are at risk from solar particle events. They even can absorb acute doses of radiation leading to acute radiation syndrome, which includes potentially deadly damage to blood cells and the body’s organs.

NASA medical professionals have to anticipate the level of radiation exposure based on the length of a flight and the type of mission, and they have to be prepared with the medical treatments astronauts may need. So NASA’s medical team was curious when a BARDA scientist reached out to talk about BARDA’s work on radiation countermeasures.

Together, they talked about the work BARDA is doing to develop better devices to measure the amount of radiation absorbed by a human body and the treatments BARDA is developing with private industry partners to treat radiation injury.

We have learned that the types of radiation astronauts are exposed to in space are different from the type of radiation that everyone else would be exposed to in a radiological or nuclear emergency on Earth, but the radiation likely has the same effects on the human body.

Now, through the memorandum of understanding the two groups signed last week, BARDA will share information gathered when developing medical countermeasures for radiation. NASA will share research on low-dose radiation that could have implications for diagnosing and treating radiation after a radiological or nuclear emergency.

NASA will take a look at the latest licensed/approved products that BARDA has supported as well as products still in development, like cytokines which help the body recover from radiation damage to white blood cells. NASA’s medical team will explore a broad range of other BARDA-sponsored medical countermeasures, too, like vaccines and antibiotics that could protect or treat other health threats astronauts encounter depending on their mission.

BARDA’s radiation medical countermeasures program covers a variety of products since so much would be needed after a nuclear or radiological emergency like an improvised radiological device. Products would be needed to treat radiation damage to lungs, the gastrointestinal system, blood cells, and even the body’s ability to make white blood cells.

Knowing how much radiation the body has absorbed is important to know which person needs treatment. Geiger counters available today only detects radiation on the skin but can’t tell how much has been absorbed. There’s no approved biodosimetry test that a first responder or emergency room nurse can use to determine that.

BARDA is working with private industry to develop products that earn FDA approval to meet all of these health challenges so the United States will be ready in an emergency. We’ve helped usher 31 products through development to FDA approval to address several chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, including pandemic influenza.

The medical countermeasures that BARDA develops have far-reaching implications, with the potential to protect people from pandemic influenza, antibiotic-resistant infections, and bioterrorist threats.  Now, BARDA is leveraging its medical countermeasures program even further and collaborating with NASA to make astronauts’ jobs a little less hazardous.

July 26
The Health Watch: Keeping Your Neighborhood Secure

When it comes to volunteering to keep your community healthy and safe, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. Creating a neighborhood health watch is one way you can start helping those in need, protecting our nation’s health security in the process. Making your community more organized and connected will help you become more resilient in the face of a wide variety of disasters – from fires and floods to disease outbreaks and even man made events.

You’ve probably heard of a regular neighborhood watch before, where people living in an area get together sometimes to walk through the neighborhood and make sure it’s safe for the people who live there. Well this is kind of the same thing, except this time, it’s all about the health of your community and neighbors.

Who Participates in a Neighborhood Health Watch?

  • Watches can be run by community organization leaders or community members themselves, and can be as small or as large as you need.
  • A team of volunteers can be your Health Watch leaders, whose job it is to get other members working together and coordinate to make sure the whole community is supported.
  • Health Watch volunteers can reach out to their local police station, fire department, hospitals, and more to share important health information and get advice on new projects.

What Can a Neighborhood Health Watch Do?

You can design a Health Watch to meet the unique needs of your community. Here are some things to consider:

  • Keep It Simple. Try starting with a meet-and-greet welcome event for neighborhood volunteers to get to know one another better.
  • Offer a Lift. Volunteers can provide rides to neighbors who need to get to the doctor or the pharmacy but can’t drive themselves.
  • Kick it Up a Notch. You can offer other services too, like assisting an elderly or disabled member of your neighborhood with household chores or caring for a neighbor’s pet.

Ready to Start a Health Watch? Here’s a 7-Step Guide!

  1. Do Your Research. Talk about the idea with your neighbors, friends, and family. Look online to see what other communities might be doing about keeping neighbors healthy and secure. Think of ways you can teach everyone in the community who to call when they need assistance. There may be organizations in your area that already offer services your program can promote and possibly support, such as rides to those in need.
  2. Build Your Team. Are there other volunteer groups or community organizations in your area that have experience in this area and might want to participate in your Health Watch, such as a local Community Emergency Response Team? Start reaching out and asking others if they are interested.
  3. Make Your Headquarters. Find a convenient place where your Health Watch volunteers can meet regularly to talk about ideas and make plans. This could be your local community center, the offices a local community organization, a coffee shop, or a neighborhood park. Make sure it’s somewhere that is open at the times you might want to meet and is convenient for the people on your team.
  4. Connect with Your City or Town. This step is the most important! Reach out to your local fire department, police station, hospitals, community health clinics, and any other important groups you think could support. In building partnerships, these groups can assist with sending vital health information to people, and you can get expert advice on new projects.
  5. Call for Volunteers. Work with your Health Watch team to find more volunteers in your community who can bring your team's great new ideas to life! To reach everyone in your area, you’ll need all hands on deck to hit the streets and collect or provide information.
  6. Connect with Charities. Which charities or other local volunteer or faith-based organizations are in your area that can join the Health Watch? You can also recruit volunteers from within your neighborhood or community organization to join their efforts as well.
  7. Ask for Help. Are there any local businesses that can host events or donate supplies? Remember that anyone who lives or works in your neighborhood is a part of the community and can contribute to building its health resilience. Talk to others about the value of a Health Watch, and don’t be afraid to ask them how they can get involved.

Follow these steps and, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful Neighborhood Health Watch that will make your community healthier, stronger, more resilient, and more secure! You can find more ideas and activities for how you can support national health security at

July 19
How to Include Health Security in Your Community’s Summer Events

For communities across the country, summer is the season when many are looking to get out of the house and enjoy time with friends and neighbors. Whenever people get together, volunteer organizations have a chance to teach their communities how to become healthier and more resilient. Whether your community is getting together at a block party, a community fair, a picnic, outdoor movie, or another fun event, you can use it as an opportunity to improve your community’s health security.

Start by checking your local calendar of events to see what local summer events are already planned that you may be able to help with or join. You can incorporate health into these events that are already planned by inviting volunteer organizations or businesses to sponsor health-related activities. Talk to the organizers of the event and find out if you can set up an exhibit booth, mini-clinic, or demonstration.

Once you’ve got the space, reach out to some partners that can exhibit at the event to help teach and provide services to people. Here are some great ways that partners in your community can help:

  • Medical Reserve Corps volunteers can teach their communities about bystander preparedness.
  • A hospital or American Red Cross representatives that can provide first-aid or CPR demonstrations.
  • Your local fire department or a volunteer organization could set up a cooling tent. While people are there, the sponsors could teach people about spotting heat-related illnesses.
  • Local grocers can donate some fresh, healthy foods for attendees. If it is hot outside, consider asking them to donate cold water.
  • A local clinic or pharmacy may be able to provide free or low-cost flu shots or other vaccines.
  • A local gym or fitness facility can offer free demonstrations to help get people excited about their health.
  • Don’t forget your city officials! Invite your local health department or city hall representatives to participate.

After your vendors and activities are planned, be sure to tell everyone about the great resources they can find at the event! Tell your local newspaper or news websites. Send out posts and reminders on social media, and ask others to share too. Post flyers at local businesses, community centers, places of worship, and other public spaces. And during the event, be sure to take pictures so you can share what event attendees learned with others on social media after the event is over.

Check out ASPR’s National Health Security Activity Guides for more information on holding a health resilience fair or other fun activities you and your fellow neighbors can take part in to help protect the health of one another this summer.

Don’t miss out this summer on the great opportunities that your community will have for neighbors to connect and get to know one another—and the chance to teach others how they can become more healthy and resilient!

July 12
Four Great Ways for Local Public Health to Increase National Health Security

Your public health agency or organization probably sponsors many programs that focus on the health of people in your community, but did you know that making sure the people in your neighborhood can stay healthy before, during, or after a disaster is critical to achieving national health security?

Disasters could strike at any time, and when they do, they could threaten the health of an entire community. By providing services that help residents become healthy, strong, and prepared, public health practitioners and organizations can help build community resilience. Community resilience makes people – and ultimately the nation – better protected in the face of smaller, everyday incidents, and better able to withstand, manage, and recover from disasters. This, in turn, strengthens national health security.

Build Health Security Awareness

In your role as public health professionals, it’s important to translate the National Health Security Strategy into activities and ideas easier for people to understand and identify. For example, you can:

  • Promote first aid and CPR classes that are offered by qualified organizations in your community like the American Red Cross
  • Encourage people in your community to learn what to do to help injured people Until Help Arrives
  • Making personal and family preparedness checklists with the help of
  • Sponsor or attend public health or community health resilience events

For more ideas, check out the strategic messaging guide for local health departments, created to help keep the conversation going with your audiences. Using social media also can help put your messaging right into the pockets of your audiences while encouraging citizen engagement and outreach.

Host Community Health Resilience Roundtable Workshops

Community resilience requires partnerships among community-based organizations of all kinds, including faith-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, schools, and others. As a public health professional, one of the ways you can support stronger national health security is by creating valuable new relationships with key organizations and leaders in your region.

As the experts in public health, you can serve as a leader in bringing different people in your community together and educating them on health resilience and security. Hosting an event like a community health resilience roundtable or workshop is a great way to educate constituents on health security concepts and activities while also strengthening your organization by building new relationships. If you’ve never hosted a roundtable workshop, you can use the new NHS activity guide for public health from ASPR, which includes helped step-by-step guidelines.

Strike Up New Public Private Partnerships

With 90 percent of critical health infrastructure operated by the private sector, incorporating public-private partnerships into preparedness and response planning is vital for creating truly health secure communities, serving as a key component in building the nation’s community health resilience at the local level. These partnerships are defined relationships between a public agency, such as the city’s department of public health, and a private sector entity, like a local non-profit organization. As a result of establishing these partnerships with private groups, public health agencies can benefit from greater participation in the delivery or financing of projects. Public-private partnerships also can have advantages such as reducing development risk, mobilizing underutilized assets, adopting new models, improving service to the community, and increasing cost effectiveness.

Planning for the Needs of At-Risk Populations

At-risk individuals are people who have special needs that may prevent them from having access to or receiving medical care before, during, or after a disaster or emergency. These needs may not be a formal medical diagnosis or easily labeled, but they generally include either access-based needs or function-based needs.

Incorporating at-risk members of your community or organization into your disaster preparedness planning and community health resilience activities is critical, as these are the individuals who are most vulnerable in regards to their health in certain events, even those that are less severe. By using resources like the HHS emPOWER Map or the ASPR Technical  Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (ASPR TRACIE), you can proactively work to better support those people who are at-risk locally.

Whatever public health activities you think are best for your organization, keep in mind that they should build new relationships and connections with others. Building new connections and partnerships among public health and communities is a key way you can help support national health security!

Want to learn more about what public health practitioners and organizations can do to be involved with national health security? Check out materials and resources from ASPR, including infographics, brochures, and activity guides that provide congregations with a range of ideas you can take to your communities.

June 29
Prepare to Play It Cool: Helping At-Risk Populations Combat Extreme Heat

Summer is officially in full swing, and temperatures are sizzling in several parts of the country. While hurricanes, floods, and storms may be the types of severe weather most emergency planners and responders consider, extreme heat can be just as damaging, if not more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat kills more than 600 people every year in the United States, making it a top cause of weather-related deaths.

Whether as a rising average temperature or as heat waves, extreme heat is a health threat that can be more far reaching than any other severe weather events. Heat waves can strike in usually temperate geographical regions, placing residents at serious health risk unexpectedly. No matter where extreme heat arises, the risk is even more severe for children, the elderly, people who depend on electrical medical equipment at home, people without air conditioning in their homes, and people on certain medications or suffering from particular chronic illnesses.

Planning Tools and Resources for Emergency Managers and Responders

The first step in addressing the risk of heat-related illness among vulnerable people is understanding where they live. The EPA’s EJSCREEN, the Environmental Justice Screening map helps emergency planners examine the environmental factors that impact different demographic groups. This free online tool lets users see where a wide range of vulnerable populations live in an area. Once a user identifies the geographic area of interest, EJSCREEN provides 30 demographic and environmental indicators and indexes for that area.

Yet to identify all the people at greater risk to extreme heat in your region, you’ll need additional tools. More than 2.4 million Medicare beneficiaries rely upon electricity-dependent medical and assistive equipment, such as ventilators and wheel chairs. Heat waves can lead to rolling blackouts or brown-outs, creating significant adverse health effects for this group of people.

Hospitals, first responders, electric companies, and community members can use HHS’s interactive online emPOWER map to find the total of Medicare beneficiaries with electricity-dependent equipment claims at the U.S. state, territory, county, and zip code level. Using this tool, planners can help place shelters in key locations, allocate resources like generators, and identify top priority areas to reach during power outages.

In addition, check out the extreme heat sections of ASPR TRACIE’s Natural Disasters Topic CollectionExit Icon for lessons learned, plans, and templates that can help medical professionals, emergency planners, and public health professionals prepare for and cope with the weather and other natural hazards. The National Integrated Heat Health Information SystemExit Icon webpage also offers a host of resources and tips for planning for and managing heat waves.

Making extreme heat a priority is critical for state and local preparedness planners, healthcare workers and emergency responders. Equipped with these resources, you can build resilience in your communities and beat the heat this season. For more information on national health security, visit

June 27
Working or Volunteering on July 4th? Beat the Heat!

Over the next few days, EMS providers, fire fighters, Medical Reserve Corps, and many other community members will be supporting Independence Day celebrations. In planning for emergencies during mass gatherings, these workers and volunteers need to remember the “airplane mask rule” and ensure their own health and safety before helping others.

Typically people who work outdoors aren’t considered a medically vulnerable population, yet they are at high risk for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps or rashes. In fact, most occupational heat-related deaths occur in the first one to three days of working in the heat.

Many people - from first responders to volunteers - may not be accustomed to working outdoors in the extreme heat. They may have tasks requiring great physical exertion or they may use protective clothing and equipment that can trap heat and prevent cooling. Heat can result in dizziness, fogged-up safety glasses, or sweaty palms, increasing the risk of injury.

Finding relief also may be a challenge; water and shade may not be easy to access in certain settings. People working outdoors who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take certain medications are at an even greater risk of heat stress.

The natural adaptation to the heat takes time and managing that transition requires careful planning. CDC offers recommendations to stay ahead of potential heat-related illnesses and injuries, including:

  • Limit time in the heat and/or increase recovery time spent in a cool environment.
  • Increase the number of workers or volunteers per task.
  • Use special tools intended to minimize manual strain.
  • Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for signs of heat intolerance.
  • Provide adequate amounts of cool, potable water near work areas.
  • Train supervisors and workers about heat stress.
  • Institute a heat alert program whenever the forecast indicates a heat wave is likely.

In addition, take a look at OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app created by OSHA and CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to help people working in the heat recognize heat-related illness signs and symptoms, such as disorientation, confusion, and slurred speech. Using the mobile app, outdoor workers and first responders have access to vital safety information right at their fingertips whenever and wherever they need it.

OSHA also has several tools and resources available for emergency management personnel and community volunteers working outside during the holiday or over the summer, such as advice on acclimatizing workers.

Emergency management agencies, first responder entities, or community organizations should provide training to workers and volunteers so they understand what heat stress is, how it can affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. CDC has resources and tools available to help managers guard against heat stress for their employees or volunteers.

The National Weather Service also has heat safety tips and resources workers can use, including simply keeping tracking of the heat index!

Use these recommendations and resources to condition yourself to stay safe and healthy in the heat this 4th of July and throughout the entire summer. Tending to your needs during periods of extreme heat will help protect your health and maintain effective job performance. When communities are healthier, they’re more resilient. For more information on national health security, visit ​

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