February 5, 2007
Emergency preparedness efforts by the Cambridge Public Health Department have received acknowledgement from a national public health organization. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) announced this week that Massachusetts Public Health Preparedness Region 4b has been recognized as "Public Health Ready." Cambridge is one of 27 communities in Region 4b, which surrounds Boston.
Region 4b was one of only seven local health departments and regional coalitions to win recognition as part of Project Public Health Ready, conducted by NACCHO with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This recognition is an important statement to our community," said Dr. Karen Hacker, Interim Director, of the Cambridge Public Health Department. "Public health staff in our region has met monthly for the past three years to develop local and regional response plans. The success of our application demonstrates that we are making significant progress toward preparedness."
The recognition by NACCHO follows a lengthy application and review by public health professionals from throughout the country. Applicants were required to meet emergency preparedness criteria in the areas of response and planning, workforce competency, and emergency exercises.
Lynn Schoeff, a member of the Region 4b Executive Committee and Director of Emergency Preparedness for the Cambridge Health Alliance, explained that being Public Health Ready is an ongoing commitment. "Our application not only outlined the region's plan for responding to a variety of hazards, but it also committed our public health workforce to further training and exercises," said Schoeff.
Components of the 500-page application and regional response plan include mutual aid and resource coordination across communities, a volunteer medical reserve corps, identification of mass dispensing sites, vulnerable populations planning, training in Incident Command Systems, and a schedule of exercises to identify future planning needs.
"These activities occur across city and town lines and with our partners in public safety and other agencies," noted Schoeff. "Many of the emergencies that local health may confront require that cross-jurisdictional and cross-discipline support."
Region 4b was established in 2003 as one of seven public health preparedness regions funded through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Health departments participating in the emergency planning activities include: Arlington, Belmont, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Chelsea, Cohasset, Dedham, Everett, Hanover, Hingham, Hull, Milton, Needham, Newton, Norwell, Norwood, Quincy, Revere, Scituate, Somerville, Watertown, Wellesley, Westwood, Weymouth, and Winthrop.