Sunday, January 17, 2016

[HAZARD] – Disease, an unhealthy resurgence

I wrote the following post back in 2014 during the Ebola debacle.  Disease is a constant companion during a crisis.  For the emergency manager it has to be one of the principle hazards that must be addressed.  The effectiveness, and in fact the very existence of our respective teams depends on how well we plan and prepare for mankind’s oldest companion.

I hope you benefit from the post “Pandemic 2014” as you thoughtfully consider your plans.  Look for additional posts on this topic in the future.

Pandemic 2014
by Mark Donges of 419Systems

One of the most terrifying emergency events I think that we will ever encounter is the pandemic.  Those of us that work in the Continuity of Operations (Emergency Management) field train for such events and write plans to address them, but actually living through something like this is an entirely different matter.

The latest outbreak of the Ebola virus is spreading, and it has the potential to spread around the globe, although the CDC is on record insisting that we in the United States are at little risk. 

Ebola is a River in the Democratic Republic of Congo where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976 which is where this virus gets its name.

With an incubation period of between 2 and 21 days combined with cheap and plentiful international travel options it would be unwise to assume that all is well. 

America once screened every single man, woman and child that entered our nation.  That practice is no longer followed.  We read about a multitude of illnesses that have not existed within our shores for decades that have now been re-introduced by the assault on our southern border.

What is the game plan for addressing a Pandemic?
Once the Pandemic is identified in your area your course of action is simple:

1) You don’t go to work
2) You don’t go to the store
3) You don’t go to the mall shopping
4) You don’t visit anyone
5) You don’t leave your house for any reason – to do so is a roll of the dice

Basically you have to keep your family sequestered in your home and avoid all interaction with everyone.  You must have ample food, water, medicine, Bleach and other supplies in quantity on hand that you know is fresh so that you can survive during a Pandemic.  This is called Social Distancing and is the only way we have to avoid becoming infected.

Now for the really Bad News. 
Ebola is really bad stuff.  Contact with bodily fluids of an infected person is all it takes and it appears to be about 90% fatal.  There is no treatment and the virus can survive for as long as 10 days in the environment.

Another major threat is the Bird Flu, which was of such concern in the recent past.  It can evolve and if it becomes transmissible between humans has also been identified with an extremely high fatality rate.  We even have tuberculosis, Plague, and West Nile Virus active in our nation now.[1]

Worse News – you are waiting for all of the infected to die so they are no longer mobile and spreading the disease.  Then someone has to clean and disinfect all areas where an infected person has been.

Even Worse News – In the case of the Bird Flu people will think that the crisis is over in a month or so, but then the second wave hits.  That is how the Flu will behave, just like a sine wave the infection rate will rise, then fall, then rise again as people start to come out and interact with their neighbors.  We’re talking months of time to get past a Flu Pandemic and that means months of social distancing to avoid becoming ill and dying.

So planning for a Pandemic is something that we take very seriously.  It is very different from most of the other emergencies we worry about. 

You have to totally adjust your thinking because we’re talking life and death from an unseen pathogen that you can’t run from. 

For all you know you’d be running into a hot spot and condemn your family as a result of your flight.  Be sure to look into Amateur Radio and AmRRON because if you can’t communicate you are in real trouble.

You could also wind up in a public shelter where individuals from many areas are congregated if you’ve not planned ahead and find yourself without food, water and necessary medical supplies or services.

Basically, if you haven’t planned and prepared then you have made a conscious decision to be a victim.  This is one time you really don’t want to turn the decisions of life and death over to pure chance.

Right now is the time when you should develop your plans, train your team, test your plans, and manage your emergency assets.

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