September is National Preparedness Month. Maine CDC’s Public Health Emergency and Response (PHEP) team provides oversight and coordination of all public health and medical response and recovery resources that are required to reduce and/or prevent loss of life from an infectious disease outbreak, a natural disaster, or an act of terrorism. This is accomplished by activating and staffing the Public Health Emergency Operations Center, which is the central nervous system for all response and recovery activities being conducted by public health and healthcare responders.
In between public health emergencies, the PHEP program is busy preparing for the next emergency by updating emergency operations plans based on lessons learned, facilitating the identification and prioritization of public health threats, facilitating incident management training, developing and facilitating response exercises among with partners statewide, managing response equipment and supply caches, rotating and distributing medical countermeasures, testing emergency communications equipment, and recruiting medical volunteers.
In the past year, the Maine Responds coordinator has recruited 564 medical volunteers, bringing our total number of deployable volunteers to more than 900 individuals. PHEP has developed six new Medical Reserve Corps Units; there is now one in each of the eight public health districts. The Maine Health Alert Network has the highest enrollment numbers (n=15,000) since implementing the HAN system in 2007. PHEP also increased operational ability to safely transport highly infectious disease patients to specialized healthcare facilities to receive appropriate and specialized care.