The Prepared Community Initiative

The Prepared Community Initiative is a training and technical assistance program for local Community Health Councils. The Initiative is intended to prepare Community Health Councils to be collaborative partners in health-related emergency preparedness and response, especially as it pertains to at-risk populations. The at-risk populations identified in this initiative were: children, the elderly, people with chronic mental illness, people with substance abuse problems, people with disabilities, people who do not speak English, homeless people, and people who are incarcerated or institutionalized. Community Health Councils were chosen as partners, because their frequent collaborations with community-based organizations and local government agencies make them important liaisons during emergency planning. In addition, their roles in the community may provide them with the opportunity to coordinate planning, implementation, and post-disaster services for their client base.

The Initiative comprises three phases. Phase I includes an introductory training and the development of a Community Health Emergency Management Profile. Phase II involves an all-day training workshop and the creation of the Targeted Outreach Network. Phase III expands on the work completed in the first two phases and incorporates training on the challenges of responding to an influenza pandemic.

The Community Health Emergency Management Profile (Phase I) provides a general overview of the population and the emergency planning status within the community. It includes a psychosocial assessment, a description of populations with special planning needs, a description of the community's experience and strengths in terms of response to disaster, and a resource directory of agencies and organizations that may play a role in emergency response. The Targeted Outreach Network (Phase II) ensures that all people in the community have access to the information they need before, during, and after an emergency. It includes a description of the most vulnerable populations in the area; a database of community organizations that could be most effective in reaching those populations, and tips for planning for and responding to each population before, during, and after an emergency. Phase III includes descriptions of services that may be necessary, helpful, or legally required for people with disabilities during a pandemic or other emergency.

One reviewer called The Prepared Community Initiative useful and reality-based. Once completed, the profile of Community Health Council service populations and resources could be shared with other community planners, state and local public health departments, and city emergency managers. Before this initiative could be adapted within another jurisdiction, planners would need to weigh several issues that may not be immediately replicable within their communities. These may include: the number of Community Health Councils or community-based organizations that will participate in the program; the time, staff, and budget needed to complete the project; sources of specific information about the community to inform the Community Health Emergency Management Profile and the Targeted Outreach Network; a plan on when, why, and how to use collected information in event of an emergency, and a plan on whether or how to keep information updated.

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