Neighborhood Emergency Teams

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The "Neighborhood Emergency Teams" (NET) manual provides material with which local government officials can provide public safety information to individuals, families, and neighborhoods during a public health emergency. The information is designed to be used after a disaster declaration by a two-person team comprising a city or county employee and a volunteer. Teams would be trained to visit residents in a specific area in order to assess basic needs and provide public safety guidelines and solutions. Although the manual is intended for active use during or after a disaster, it also can be used to build family preparedness and enhance community resilience prior to an emergency.

The manual is a distinctive tool for educating members of the public about specific steps they can take to protect themselves at home during an emergency. Although the guidebook uses an all-hazards format, specific information on a pandemic influenza or communicable disease emergency is highlighted in red and therefore easy to find. A variety of resources provide detailed information on managing electricity, hygiene and waste, food and water, community resilience, and personal protective equipment. The checklists and tips require minimal effort to complete, since they generally require items already found in many homes. Much of the information is presented in a text format, and diagrams or pictures may aid presentation of some of the more detailed instructions. One reviewer noted that some of the information may require further clarification or caution, depending on the audience's circumstances. For instance, the tips on heating or cooking sources may benefit from warnings about the causes, signs, and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, the sections on personal protective equipment and psychological first aid might best be viewed as supplements to more intensive training provided to employees and volunteers.

Two reviewers found the concept and structure of the neighborhood emergency teams noteworthy. Neighborhood teams may provide an excellent opportunity for public health to partner with emergency management and other agencies to provide community preparedness outreach. Volunteers could be recruited from Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Medical Reserve Corps, and other citizen safety groups. Agencies that wish to adopt this practice may have to consider the feasibility and sustainability of maintaining employee/volunteer teams in a given jurisdiction and adjust the format accordingly.

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