What is the MCDH Emergency Preparedness & Response Program Doing?
The mission of the McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) is to protect the health and safety of McHenry County residents. Although our strategies to accomplish this may change during an emergency, our goal remains the same. MCDH, along with our partner agencies, have coordinated planning, communication, and outreach for any hazard that could pose an urgent threat to the public. The general public is an important part of the process. We will all need to work together during a disaster!
We are Planning
The McHenry County Department of Health has an emergency plan in place that is adaptable to the public health incidents that pose the greatest risks to our citizens. Because we do not know exactly how a disaster may unfold, our plan takes an All-Hazards approach--allowing us to quickly react to changing events. This type of plan is crucial for a coordinated response and reduces confusion by having a consistent set of core responses within the agency.
MCDH adheres to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which provides a standardized framework for incident management. The MCDH Public Health Emergency Plan is a part of the overall McHenry County Emergency Operations Plan, which is coordinated by the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency.
The MCDH Public Health Emergency Plan is an evolving document and we are constantly making improvements to it. As new information becomes available and as new threats emerge, we incorporate them into our plan. Below are the overviews of a few sections from the plan that may be of interest.
Pandemic Response (Pandemic Influenza) -- Over time, existing diseases mutate and new diseases emerge to which humans have little or no immunity. These have the potential to quickly spread over a large geographic area, creating pandemics. Due to the contagious and unstable nature of the influenza virus, influenza pandemics are one of the most serious threats to becoming a pandemic. The MCDH Pandemic Response Plan discusses strategies for disease surveillance, control, treatment, and education. During a pandemic, MCDH will work to protect the public and contain the spread of disease. Additional Information can be found under the Pandemics page.
Mass Prophylaxis -- Also referred to as "Mass Dispensing" or "Mass Vaccination," this is the capability to protect the health of the public by administering emergency interventions (e.g. antibiotics, vaccinations, antivirals) in a timely manner. This plan will be activated in response to a large-scale public health emergency in order to prevent disease among those who are exposed or are potentially exposed to a threat. MCDH is the lead agency for local mass prophylaxis operations including requesting, managing, distributing, and dispensing the medications. If the disaster is great enough to deplete local medical resources, MCDH may request supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Mass prophylaxis may take place in phases during which first responders receive medications earliest in order to maintain essential functions. MCDH may choose to operate Open Points of Dispensing (PODs) throughout the County; Open PODs are sites where the public can come to receive emergency medications.
Emergency Public Information -- MCDH has developed plans to ensure accurate, timely, and thorough communication to our partners, stakeholders, and the public. We prepare for public information and media communications before, during, and after any situation that affects the health of McHenry County residents. Communication professionals will deliver messages to the public through as many traditional media (e.g. radio, television, newspaper) and social media (e.g. website, Facebook, Twitter) outlets as possible. Messages will be crafted to ensure understanding for a wide range of audiences. When you are looking for preparedness and emergency-related information, be sure to utilize only trustworthy and reliable sources.
We are Training and Exercising
To practice and improve our response capability, MCDH regularly conducts training and exercises. This allows us to apply, evaluate, and improve our plans. Because the Health Department will operate differently in an emergency than it does on a day-to-day basis, this is particularly important to teach MCDH staff about the roles they may need to fill during emergencies. A variety of other types of training are presented to MCDH staff and MRC volunteers to keep up-to-date on preparedness and response issues.
Drills and exercises help to determine if the plans we have created can be effectively executed when they are needed. Regularly scheduled drills and exercises test numerous aspects of our emergency preparedness & response plans. An exercise format can vary in scope from tabletop discussions to boots-on-the-ground full scale exercises. Depending on the type of exercise, MCDH staff, MRC volunteers, critical response partners, and members of the public may be involved.
MCDH drills and exercises are compliant with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), a national standard for exercise management. By utilizing HSEEP, we ensure that our exercises are designed, developed and conducted with an eye towards improvement planning.
We are Educating
One of the three main principles of Emergency Response & Preparedness is to "Know the Facts." It is important to understand what types of disasters might affect us, and in particular for MCDH, what might happen during a public health emergency. MCDH is dedicated to educating our staff, volunteers, partners, and the community about these issues. Education is important before, during, and after an incident. MCDH keeps up-to-date information and guidance available to stakeholders throughout the County.
MCDH offers training and presentations on public health preparedness and response topics, which can be tailored to an organization's specific needs. If you are interested in scheduling a presentation or having a member of the Emergency Response & Preparedness (ER) Program exhibit at a health fair, please call the Health Department at (815) 334-4510. There are additional preparedness links, educational information, and past newsletters archived on the More Information page. No cost emergency preparedness training is offered online through the Federal Emergency Management Agency; visit their website to see a list of online courses.
We are Recruiting
During a large-scale disaster, volunteers will be needed to assist the Health Department in response activities. These volunteers need to be trained and credentialed before a disaster occurs. MCDH is actively recruiting those who are willing to help. Medical and non-medical volunteers are being trained to enhance local response capabilities and support public health initiatives. Visit the Volunteer-MRC section of this website for more information of to sign up!