FAQ - Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness

What is Emergency Preparedness?

A. Emergency preparedness involves advanced plans and actions necessary to respond to a possible or probable disaster. Preparation of an Emergency Disaster Plan is one component of emergency preparedness, but plans to include food, water, and sanitation equipment should also be developed.

How have emergency response agencies been preparing to address the possibility of a terrorist attack or natural disaster in Washington County?

A. Most experts believe that the chance of a bioterrorist attack in Washington County - or anywhere else in the world - is low. Yet a risk does exist. Many federal, state, and local agencies have been working together to prepare for this unwanted possibility.
In Washington County, several emergency systems are in place to quickly detect and respond to a possible public health emergency like a bioterrorist incident or an earthquake. Such a response would include:
* Coordinating efforts with other county, city, state, and federal agencies
* Alerting hospitals and the medical care community
* Communicating with the public
* Ensuring that appropriate medical care and prevention services are provided.

What can county residents do to prepare for public health emergencies?

A. The best way for a family to be safe is to be prepared before any emergency occurs:
* Established guidelines on disaster preparedness recommend that families maintain a 72-hour emergency kit. (PDF)
* A family emergency contact list and meeting place (PDF) will help ensure increased safety of your loved ones.

Should Washington County residents include gas masks when creating a 72-hour emergency kit?

A. * Purchasing gas masks for protection during a bioterrorist incident is discouraged.
* Unless a mask is worn all the time, which is impractical as well as dangerous, it will not protect against the release of biological agents.
* Improper use of gas masks can cause serious injury or accidental suffocation, especially among persons with heart or lung disease.

Is the County's water supply safe from a public health disaster?

A. * Most emergency preparedness experts agree that methods already in place to filter and clean the drinking water supply are effective against most biological agents. Chlorine, for example, protects drinking water from water-borne bacteria. Also, the large quantity of water in Washington County's water supply would significantly dilute a biological agent, limiting its potential to do harm.
* In the event of a flood in Washington County, guidelines have been established here.

Should residents store extra antibiotics to protect themselves against bioterrorism?

A. * It is strongly recommended that residents DO NOT stockpile antibiotics.
* Using antibiotics without a doctor's prescription may cause serious harmful reactions, including diarrhea, abdominal symptoms, rash, allergic reactions.
* Antibiotics have a limited shelf life and have expiration dates of effectiveness.
* Improper use of antibiotics may also cause the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of common bacterial diseases.
* Stockpiling could lead to shortages of national supplies that are maintained by the federal government for delivery in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

Where can I get information about a 72 hour emergency kit?

A. Visit the Take 5 to Survive website at http://www.take5tosurvive.com/ for additional information including a step-by-step plan to put your emergency kit together. See below for a direct link to this resource.
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