Connecticut emergency guide focuses on local hazards and enhanced communication to prepare and inform state residents

In Brief

In 2011, the Connecticut Department of Public Health revised an emergency preparedness guide to more specifically address hazards affecting the state, include information about pandemic influenza, and be more accessible to the general public. A public education campaign and Web site were developed around the guide’s updated subject matter.

Background

Connecticut experiences a wide array of seasonal hazards, such as severe winter storms, hurricanes, and floods, and it must also prepare for accidents stemming from man-made disasters, infectious disease, or incidents at the two nuclear power plants located within its region. The effect of Tropical Storm Irene on the East Coast in summer 2011 and a rare October Nor’easter two months later highlighted Connecticut’s susceptibility to a variety of natural/seasonal hazards.

Specific issues

  • Comprehension level. Initial versions of state emergency preparedness materials were written at a level that was difficult for some people to understand.
  • Relevance. The focus of a comprehensive emergency preparedness campaign had to address all the hazards potentially experienced in Connecticut, while also drawing attention to issues that would most likely affect people’s lives.

The practice

The Connecticut Department of Public Health substantially revised an emergency preparedness guide and communications campaign, initiated in 2005, to include information about pandemic flu and to educate residents about the variety of hazards that can affect the state.

The Connecticut Guide to Emergency Preparedness was developed in 2005 as a resource for residents planning for natural, biological, chemical, and radiological emergencies. In 2011, it was revised to reflect the state agency’s experiences with preparedness and a growing understanding of residents’ needs. Updates included simplifying language used in the guide, including a new section about pandemic influenza preparedness based on lessons learned during 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and focusing in greater detail on hazards most likely to affect Connecticut residents. A public education campaign and Web site were developed around the guide’s subject matter. Several features of the updated guide include information on:

  • Resources used by state public health that are relevant to residents, including the Connecticut Health Alert Network, the state Strategic National Stockpile, and locations of mass vaccination regions
  • Lists of Connecticut state emergency preparedness partners, such as the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and the Bureau of School Facilities
  • Ideas for creating a family emergency supply kit
  • Examples related to planning for people with functional needs, specifically children, elderly persons, and people with disabilities
  • How to respond to emergency warnings and public health instructions to shelter in the home, evacuate, or go to a shelter
  • Details on disasters most likely to affect the lives of Connecticut residents, including:
    • Natural disasters, specifically blizzards, flash floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes
    • Biological emergencies and implications for quarantine and isolation
    • Chemical emergencies
    • Nuclear and radiological emergencies and information on how to secure the house if asked to shelter in place
    • Drinking water emergencies, along with methods for purifying water and monitoring suspicious behavior near water supplies
    • Pandemic influenza

The guide was sent to all local health departments statewide with additional guides distributed to fire departments, libraries, senior centers and members of the public upon request.

What made this practice possible?

  • With funding from the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Public Health Emergency Response grants, the Connecticut Department of Public Health was able to integrate the updated guide and communications campaign into its ongoing “Learn to Live Prepared” educational program.

Results

In response to the needs of state residents, the agency created and distributed a comprehensive communications campaign geared toward readying individuals and families for disasters.

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