April 2008 MedBytes: Disaster Preparedness

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The Texas House committees on Public Health and on Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations heard testimony in February from public health and emergency preparedness officials about their strategies for dealing with statewide catastrophes. In the wake of an emergency, physicians, hospitals, health care volunteers, and public health facilities must be ready. The Web sites here will arm you with essential information and advice before a large-scale outbreak or disaster.

Texas Medical Association
The  Disaster Preparedness Resource page  of the TMA Web site,  www.texmed.org, outlines recommendations to help you during an emergency response situation. From the home page, select Public Health and Science from the menu. Choose Alerts and Updates, and click on Disaster Preparedness Resources under the Public Health Alerts heading. General information expounds on liability coverage during emergencies, Web-based electronic medical records, community planning, pediatric resources, and care following a disaster. Physicians can brush up on what to do when floods and hurricanes hit Texas and can develop a business management plan in case of an emergency.

American Medical Association
The American Medical Association's  Center for Public Health Preparedness and Disaster Response focuses on educational resources for enhancing disaster preparedness and response throughout the nation. Learn about AMA's National Disaster Life Support program, established in 2003 to integrate physicians, medical students, and other health professionals into community, state, or regional disaster response. The association has also created a resource guide to biological, chemical, radiation, and other disasters. Plus, physicians can read the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, which represents the first such global publication to translate science into practice and incorporate medical and public health perspectives.

Governor's Division of Emergency Management
Implementing an all-hazards emergency management program in Texas and aiding cities, counties, and agencies in planning their emergency management programs are part of the mission of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management. On the division's Web site,  www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem, physicians can share information with disabled patients about planning for emergencies by clicking on the  Public Information & Education link.  Preparedness Planning  will direct health care professionals to vital information on local and state emergency management plans. Details about preparedness training and exercises throughout the state are also available online. And, you can access additional helpful resources on the Useful Links page.

Texas Department of State Health Services
You'll find everything from the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) State Plan to statistics and information on tuberculosis to the state's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan on the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Infectious Disease Control Unit Web page,  www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu. The site is an all-in-one spot for surveying flu activity statewide, guidelines for preventing the spread of MRSA, Escherichia coli statistics, information about West Nile Virus, and more. The Related Rules & Regulations link on the left of the screen will direct you to notifiable conditions lists and communicable disease control measures. Select Disease Reporting from the menu to download investigation, surveillance, and reporting forms.

Texas Health Institute
The Disaster Preparedness Project of the Texas Health Institute,  www.texashealthinstitute.org, takes an active role in developing initiatives in disaster preparedness and response. Of particular interest to health care professionals is Disaster Preparedness and Response in Texas Hospitals: Hospital Emergency Preparedness Planning, Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response: Edition Two. Open the PDF to access the guidance plans for the development of regional hospital emergency response, regional communication and coordination, medical operations, security, pharmaceuticals, patient tracking and transportation, and infection control. Public health officials can learn more about getting involved in the institute's disaster response training programs, which concentrate on enhancing public health agency and system preparedness and building an effective community-wide response.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. 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 Crystal Conde . Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  

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