Local agencies take unified approach to biological threats in Flagler County, Fla.

Kevin Guthrie, public safety emergency manager for Flagler County, Florida, believes it takes a village to keep the community safe. 

“In our experience, collaboration amongst local entities across Flagler County coordinated by well-trained leadership having knowledge of regional and state resources has been paramount in achieving a seamless preparedness plan," Guthrie told BioPrepWatch during a recent interview. “In Flagler County, we work in a unified system and work collaboratively to address the types of issues in our jurisdiction."

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) – Flagler maintains a Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan that addresses biological outbreaks. The plan calls for close coordination with County Emergency Management, and the local hospital or other medical providers. 

On Florida's east coast, Flagler County has its government offices in Bunnell. In the event of a biological emergency, in addition to the DOH-Flagler Guthrie said the key agencies would include the Florida Hospital Flagler, Flagler County Emergency Management and the county's four fire departments.

Additional support would be provided by state and federal agencies. 

“If needed, the Strategic National Stockpile resources are also available for rapid deployment to our county upon request,” Guthrie said. “Flagler County Emergency Management is a key stakeholder in the plans and resources that are mentioned from the Florida Department of Health - Flagler. We also have a pandemic plan at the county level, which includes all stakeholders.”

Flagler County has a multi-pronged approach to alerting the necessary staff, and the public at large, in the event of a biological threat in the immediate area.

“Citizens are advised, if needed, through a communication strategy coordinated between (the) local Health Department, County Emergency Management, local hospitals and other stakeholders,” Guthrie said.

Following the recent Ebola scare in the U.S., the county held preparedness activities that included activation of a county Incident Management Team, which is charged with coordinating the release of relevant information to the public and press. The training also included medical providers, first responders and health department staff.

“For medical providers, the DOH in Flagler County provides ongoing training and education as needed, and issues a quarterly 'EpiGram' newsletter detailing all reportable diseases occurring within the county, Guthrie said. "Details include updates on local trending of reportable diseases with comparisons to previous incidents and/or trends.”