CDC: Kanawha-Charleston Health Dept. very prepared for "bioterro - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

CDC: Kanawha-Charleston Health Dept. very prepared for "bioterrorist event"

Posted: Updated:

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is more prepared than ever to handle widespread disaster, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.

The department, which serves more than 200,000 people in the region, recently received its highest rating yet from the CDC.

KCHD scored a 98 out of 100 on the Local Technical Assistance Review this year, improving more than 20 points over the past five years.

The review measures how well public health departments are equipped to handle "critical" situations that would require officials to receive or deliver medications and supplies to the community within two days.

"Local health departments are responsible for coordinating medical response in public health emergencies," said Janet Briscoe, the director of epidemiology and emergency preparedness for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Briscoe said these "critical" public health emergencies include the H1N1 pandemic, an anthrax scare, or even a natural disaster.

She said preparedness involves much more than distributing vaccines--it involves developing a plan with local emergency responders and hospitals.

KCHD is part of the Cities Readiness Initiative, which is a federally-funded program that aims to improve a public health agency's readiness in response to a "large-scale bioterrorist event."

The initiative blankets 72 areas across the country, with at least one MSA (metropolitan statistical area) in every state, according to information on the CDC website.

Health officials said they'd need to tap into a national stockpile of medicine and supplies to support the number of people in our region. Briscoe said a state and local governments would help KCHD receive those provisions, so they could then distribute the medications throughout the community.

KCHD has never accessed the stockpile.

"For us, the biggest response we've had recently is the H1N1 pandemic, and we were responsible for getting vacations throughout the community," Briscoe said.

She added health officials also jumped into action during the derecho last June when the power outages endangered the living conditions of many (i.e. access to clean food and water.) She remembers evacuating several nursing homes in the area to protect the health and safety of those residents.

The department consists of nearly 40 employees, also relying on the help of volunteers.

Briscoe attributes the high CDC score to all emergency responders in the area with which KCHD collaborates. In hopes of scoring even higher next year, Briscoe said she hopes to practice more drills to prep workers and volunteers for a worst-case scenario.