South Florida Hospital News
Thursday October 18, 2018
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June 2007 - Volume 3 - Issue 12

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NSU’s Center for Bioterrorism and All-Hazards Preparedness

Suppose that you are at work in an urban medical center, caring for patients, when you learn that a train has derailed nearby, causing a fire and chemical spill that is threatening the neighborhoods surrounding it. Evacuation is necessary, and mass casualties, including burns and inhalation injuries, are likely. As a health care professional, you will be expected to respond to this disaster. But will you know how to respond? Are you prepared?

The ideal answer to those questions is yes, and the Center for Bioterrorism and All-Hazards Preparedness (CBAP) at Nova Southeastern University – College of Osteopathic Medicine is diligently working to assure that as many people as possible, within Florida’s health care industry, can answer affirmatively and confidently. The CBAP program is barely five years old but has already provided comprehensive, interdisciplinary disaster preparedness training to nearly 10,000 health care professionals, health care workers, first responders, volunteers and students throughout the state. It is a national program, one of six created across the U.S. with a federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, designed to provide standardized training, dissemination of information, technical assistance and expert consultation on disaster and emergency preparedness to individuals, groups, facilities and organizations throughout the state.

"Preparation is the key to effective disaster management, no matter what the type of disaster," says Sally Bragg, R.N., M.S.N., Assistant Project Director for CBAP. "Preparation minimizes damage, including deaths, injuries and property damage, and optimizes recovery from disaster. All-hazards preparedness training facilitates readiness for terrorist attacks, major disasters that are either natural or man-made, and other major emergencies. The basic steps that we need to take to prepare for one type of disaster are essentially the same for most disasters."

CBAP has developed four progressive bioterrorism and disaster preparedness courses that train participants in the identification of, response to, and recovery from disasters. The courses are free, available to anyone and are offered online in user-friendly modules. Courses are also available in customized, face-to-face presentations for groups. The initial 4-hour Basic Awareness course emphasizes terminology and classification of hazards and disasters, including natural and man-made disasters, the "Disaster Cycle" response to a disaster, crisis intervention and emergency agency operations. Other courses offer intermediate level or advanced training, which includes hands-on experience. The fourth course is for health care administrators who do not have medical backgrounds.

"There are many health care workers who are unfamiliar with disaster preparedness," says Bragg. "Hospitals have disaster drills, but people need and want to have this training. So far we have trained health care workers in 42 different disciplines. Once we began networking, the demand just exploded and we had to expand our staff to accommodate the need. We are integrating our training courses into nursing school curriculums, offering our programs through Broward Community College and training every school nurse in the state. Community health centers, senior care centers, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home health agencies, physician offices, and other facilities should consider this training. In a disaster, people can’t reach hospitals so emergency care is given in non-hospital medical facilities."

Florida is the nation’s third most populous state and has been particularly disaster-prone. Florida also has large populations of vulnerable and hard-to-reach residents, including the elderly; persons with disabilities; the homeless; migrant workers; seasonal residents; and tourists. According to Bragg, disasters often expose the most vulnerable and invisible residents, who otherwise are "hiding in plain sight." The CBAP Center at NSU-COM focuses on these vulnerable groups.

"Disasters show where the missing links are in society. In a catastrophe, special needs populations come to the surface and their problems are greatly exacerbated. Preparedness training helps a community have a plan in place to assist everyone," she says. Preparedness is critical not only for facilities and organizations, but for individuals as well. Health care and public safety workers especially need to be prepared at both the professional and personal level. Bragg says that these people, in a disaster, carry a double burden: "Those in the health care system will be asked to respond in a disaster, and their experience is going to be very stressful. They’ll work very hard for long hours, while they themselves may be affected by the disaster. They’re caring for others and worrying about their own families and homes, and may have to make some difficult choices. We encourage them to have a personal disaster plan solid and ready; it will reduce the stress somewhat and enable them to do a better job."

CBAP training programs are free of charge. To learn more about the CBAP Center at Nova Southeastern University or to register for the online courses, visit www.nova.edu/allhazards.

To speak to Sally Bragg, call (954) 262-1663.

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