Putnam County Department of Health takes lead in bio-preparedness

By staying ahead of the curve through collaboration and extensive practice, Putnam County is able to remain thoroughly prepared for any emergencies that may arise.

Since 2002, Putnam County has had a Bioterrorism/Disaster Preparedness Task Force composed of key community players who meet monthly. The 60 members include representatives from county offices, including the Bureau of Emergency Services, and community agencies such as schools and civic organizations.

The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) plays a substantial role on the task force, not only co-chairing the meetings but also acting as a primary adviser on public health and medical countermeasures for the county.

PCDOH is also at the forefront of other bio-preparedness efforts, such as conducting drills and distributing medical countermeasures.

"When a public health response is necessary, PCDOH takes a leadership role in managing and coordinating activities with our partnering agencies," PCDOH Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Connie Bueti said in an interview with BioPrepWatch. "This includes 'fine-tuning' policies and procedures, performing extensive public education/information dissemination, and communicating with government officials."

The department has to work to stay prepared as a whole in order to better keep the county prepared for disaster situations.

"PCDOH staff avail themselves to many educational and training opportunities, and participate in presentations and drills/exercises outside of the county," Bueti said. "This includes discussing county preparedness planning activities at national conferences and serving as evaluators for emergency response exercises outside of the county, including New York City."

All this planning pays off when there are emergency situations such as the recent Ebola scare.

"Since the infrastructure was in place and PCDOH staff are well-versed in the preparedness process and activities, there was a rapid and well-organized response to the Ebola situation," Bueti said.