Brevard County strengthens biological countermeasures, overall preparedness levels

Brevard County Emergency Management (BCEM) has taken steps to enhance biological emergency response efforts recently.

"The Ebola outbreak has spurred hazard-specific emergency preparedness training, including hazard-specific personal protective equipment drills and operating procedure development for hospitals and first responders," Director of Brevard County Emergency Management Kimberly Prosser said in an interview with BioPrepWatch.

BCEM is also accepting public input on the 2015 Local Mitigation Strategy (LMS) through Jan. 5 to enhance overall community preparedness.

"We hope to provide a forum for discussion about the Local Mitigation Strategy, and provide an opportunity to residents, neighboring communities, businesses, academia and other relevant private and nonprofit partners to express their concerns and contribute to the document, thus furthering the planning process," Prosser said.

The full document, available online, outlines the risk level of each type of emergency for the county. Pandemic and epidemic outbreaks have a ranking of four on a scale where five indicates the greatest risk.

There are presently no new initiatives in the LMS specific to these bio-emergencies. "Most initiatives within the plan are for items or programs that are not currently funded," Prosser said.

The LMS does detail initiatives that would "address a wide range of vulnerabilities to different hazards," according to the report. Such initiatives would enhance mobility for evacuation routes and improve communications, which could potentially benefit the community during an array of emergencies, including biological.

For specific bio-preparedness and response programs, the county relies heavily on established state programs. "The Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Epidemiology constantly does surveillance on disease breakout and performs investigations," Prosser said. "Their Emergency Preparedness and Response Section does regular plan updates and drills to ensure outbreak readiness."