May 2006 MedBytes: Disaster Preparedness

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Months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the health care industry continues to reflect on what lessons were learned from the two natural disasters. And, May is the height of the severe weather season in Texas. Here is a sample of sites on the World Wide Web that provide additional information about disasters and the organizations that respond to emergencies.

The Governor's Division of Emergency Management
The Governor's Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) carries out a comprehensive all-hazards emergency management program for the state. Additionally, the division helps cities, counties, and state agencies implement their own emergency management programs. GDEM, like other state agencies, also is responsible for supporting the development and implementation of the Governor's Homeland Security Strategy. The site,  www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem, includes a staff directory, emergency management links, and hurricane evacuation maps. Visitors also can access situation reports and the Emergency Management Digest , a quarterly publication that provides useful information on activities and programs important to emergency management officials.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at  www.fema.gov, is a former independent agency that became part of the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. It is responsible for responding to, recovering from, and mitigating against disasters. FEMA's site provides information about the agency, its latest updates, and how to obtain federal aid. Also on the site are links and directories for state offices and agencies, and materials that support emergency preparedness and response for emergency personnel, as well as the general public. The guide, "Are You Ready?" is an example of such materials. You'll also find the latest watches and warnings from the National Weather Service. FEMA's virtual library has hundreds of agency publications, many with a community focus. Finally, in response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA made a major change -- it redesigned its Web site. FEMA says the new version showcases "a completely restructured, customer-driven, and easy-to-use navigation system and a new streamlined look and feel developed by the Department of Homeland Security."

Texas Department of Health Bureau of Emergency Management
The Bureau of Emergency Management site, at  www.dshs.state.tx.us/emstraumasystems/default.shtm, contains information about emergency medical services (EMS) certification and licensure. It lists contacts for the EMS Compliance Central Team, a compilation of laws that impact EMS and trauma systems, and information about the governor's EMS and Trauma Advisory Council. The site also has a link to information on how emergency medical service providers can apply for reimbursement for costs associated with hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Visitors can also access information about Texas EMS   magazin e and request a complimentary issue.

Texas Medical Rangers
The Texas Medical Rangers (TMR) is the Medical Reserve Corps of the Texas State Guard. In March 2003, TMR became part of the Texas Military Forces (under the Texas Adjutant General) at the express direction of the governor. It is cosponsored by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and other state-supported health science centers. TMR's goal is to respond to Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism and natural epidemics. Its membership consists of trained, licensed, and indemnified health professionals and medical support volunteers who train and prepare to support lead public health authorities with specialized emergency skills.

International Medical Corps
Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, the International Medical Corps (IMC) is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. IMC rehabilitates devastated health care systems and helps bring them back to self-reliance. IMC's site, located at  www.imcworldwide.org, has information about the organization's latest recovery and relief efforts, its women's health program, and how individuals can become involved. Site visitors can also sign up for the online newsletter and read additional information about IMC's programs. A multimedia section presents images from IMC program destinations.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest toTexasphysicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email   Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by theTexasMedical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  

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