Allegheny County's Emergency Efforts National Model of Preparedness

Article excerpt

With African drums beating, Allegheny County emergency officials took the stage and explained disaster preparedness plans to members of the Healthy Black Family Project.

With that one meeting two years ago, they gained the trust of the 300 people there and the ability to spread emergency information to 6,000 more with a single phone call.

"It was a smashing success," said Stephen Thomas, director of the Center for Minority Health at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

That meeting is praised today in a national report on preparing for public health emergencies, such as an influenza pandemic, written by UPMC's Center for Biosecurity.

The federally sponsored report emphasizes the importance of engaging neighborhood associations, faith groups, ethnic centers and other community organizations. It will be distributed to city and state officials across the country.

The report can be viewed at www.upmc-biosecurity.org.

"Many years post-9/11, there's a call for enhanced citizen preparedness, and national polls continue to say Americans aren't prepared," said Monica Schoch-Spana, who wrote the report and is a senior associate at the Baltimore-based biosecurity center.

Health and emergency preparedness experts across the country collaborated on the 25-page report, which draws on more than 100 emergency preparedness studies and articles.

Key findings:

* The public can effectively conduct search and rescue activities, provide medical aid and operate mass vaccination clinics in an emergency. …