State Health Department Promotes Emergency Preparedness With Faith-Based Groups
Article Date: 30 Sep 2008 - 2:00 PDT
Dr. Walter J. Bradley, Senior Medical Administrator for the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of Preparedness and Response, on 24th September spoke at a town hall luncheon entitled, "Partnership in Emergency Preparedness: Communication, EMS, and Response and Recovery Operations." The luncheon was one in a series of 12 meetings being held across the state to help communities understand the impact a pandemic influenza or other disaster will have and how to prepare. Last year Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced the creation of the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative to help prepare members of the faith community to meet the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of disaster victims in a timely and sensitive manner.
"Churches have always played a critical role in our communities. Second to family and friends, churches are where people turn in times of need. That was certainly the case when Hurricane Katrina hit, and now Ike, and churches have become part of the front lines for disaster response and relief," said Dr. Bradley. "Churches can be a valuable asset in helping people prepare for various emergencies and respond to them."
Today's meeting was part of the second phase of the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative in which regional workshops are being conducted throughout the state to assist in providing faith-based organizations with a better understanding of their role, resource capabilities and ability to prepare their communities during and emergency or pandemic.
Joining Dr. Bradley was Reverend Dr. Willie Davis of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago. Rev. Davis most recently assisted during the floods in Illinois and aiding in recovery efforts from Hurricane Ike.
"I am speaking as one who was responsible for helping the Katrina Hurricane victims as a faith-base leader and a representative of the faith-base community in Houston. If it had not been for the leadership and involvement of the faith-base community in Houston, the recovery process would not have been possible. The City Mayor and the County Judge of Houston Harris County had to depend upon the most needed help of the faith community before and after the Katrina Hurricane," said Rev. Davis.
During the first phase of the Initiative, faith-based organizations signed up a representative to receive training from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on how to present emergency preparedness information to the community. Those faith-based organization representatives then educated other congregations and organizations about emergency preparations and handed out "tool kits." The emergency tool kits contained supplies such as pain-relievers, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, water and other materials a person might need during an emergency as well as information on the importance of social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and more. The tool kits informed and educated people on emergency preparedness and acted as a guide or a starting point for people to begin their own preparations such as stocking up on non-perishable food, water, medicines and gathering battery powered radio, flashlight, emergency contact information, etc.
As another part of the Initiative, IDPH is creating a guidance document for faith-based organizations about being a central component of disaster planning efforts. Many faith-based organizations operate homeless shelters, food pantries or meal delivery programs. During an emergency these services may be needed to help house or feed people. For example, if families were asked to stay home due to an infectious disease outbreak, faith-based organizations could coordinate a meal delivery schedule to get food to households. Cities, counties and the State could rely on these already existing infrastructures to help respond to the needs of the community during an emergency.
The final phase will include exercises where organizations will evaluate their resource capacity and determine the role they want to play with state agencies and local health departments after which a full evaluation will be completed.
Illinois Department of Public Health Illinois Department of Public Health