Illinois takes post-September 11 precautions

National Preparedness Month, a post-September 11, 2001, effort to remind Americans to prepare their lives for emergencies of any kind, is bringing attention to multiple public health initiatives that have been formed in central Illinois.
Jason Marks, the Peoria City and County Health Department's emergency preparedness coordinator, has coordinated the transition of his department from bioterrorism preparedness into an all-hazards approach, reports.
"Every emergency or disaster has some type of public health consequence," Marks said, according to "Mostly what we do is behind the scenes work. But it's not classified. It's not secret. The public should realize there is work being done to protect their health when emergencies and disasters occur."
As part of a five year grant, Marks and his team have developed an infrastructure to dispense medical countermeasures to the most people in the least amount of time in case of a disease or bioterrorism-related event. One part of that infrastructure is a group of volunteers called the Medical Reserve Corps, who give preparedness demonstrations and help staff vaccination and flu shot clinics.
"Our volunteers assisted in everything at the H1N1 clinics, from giving vaccinations to registration," Marks said, according to "They helped all the way through. Volunteers will be an integral part of any emergency response."
The emergency health coordinating center for an 18 county region, including 24 hospitals is OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. Troy Erbentraut is the manager of disaster preparedness at OSF, heads the regional effort and directs the Regional Medical Emergency Response Team.
"If there is a hospital affected, we call on the other 23 unaffected hospitals to send staff to help," Erbentraut said, according to "To me, it's all about time. In a few hours, we could have medically trained professionals on site treating patients."
As preparation for disasters, the team set up a field hospital to provide medical care to attendees of the Summer Camp music festival near Chillicothe, Ill.
"This year, we treated 434 patients in 96 hours," Erbentraut said, reports. "It's great learning experience - better than any drill we can do."
This month, health departments will begin a new five year emergency preparedness grant cycle, beginning with a hazard vulnerability assessment.