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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Canton City Health Department
State: OH
Date Added: 05/06/2009
Themes: Communications - General H1N1,State and Local Coordination
Issue Summary: Incident Command Support can work
Description of Issue(s): Going into work last Monday, the first workday after the appearance of H1N1 flu, was filled with uncertainty. Could our staff ramp up to address this emerging health threat? How could we maintain the host of regular services our department provides while suddenly increasing our surveillance and public information efforts? How big was this thing going to get? Were we up to the challenge?

Actions taken to address the issue(s): The first thing that I did was call our key staff together and, like our pandemic flu plan suggested, initiated a response to this threat using the Incident Command System (ICS). We had practiced this system and done several table top drills, but had never really used the system in a real emergency. I appointed our Director of Environmental Health the Incident Commander and he was able to quickly assemble a team of our staff into a well oiled planning machine. This has worked out even better than I could have imagined. It has allowed me, as the Health Commissioner, to be able to be the spokesperson in the community. I had a high level of confidence that I could talk to people in our community in order to calm their anxiety knowing that all the elements of surveillance and coordination were being carried out in a professional and coordinated manner. It has allowed our nursing staff to respond to questions and concerns in the community without being overwhelmed. It has provided me with the confidence that we have a robust local public health system that has the ability to respond quickly to an emerging health threat.

Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: We are clearly not perfect. There are lots of questions and problems that remain. But, at least in this small area, local public health has been able to provide the leadership in our community that the public expects and deserves. My lessons learned? Trust your plan. Act boldly. Trust your staff and community partners.

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