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Communicating with communities about emergency preparedness: Resources, strategies, and experiences: 

Communicating with communities about emergency preparedness: Resources, strategies, and experiences New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Office of Community Relations Sarah Roberts May 29, 2003

DOHMH is one of many: 

DOHMH is one of many Other government agencies make presentations on emergency preparedness NYPD FDNY Red Cross Dept. of Education FEMA Homeland Security

DOHMH presentations include: 

DOHMH presentations include What DOHMH is doing now to prepare Type of emergencies DOHMH is preparing for DOHMH’s role during a public health emergency What people can do now to prepare for an emergency Where people can get more information now and in the future What might DOHMH tell people to do in case of an emergency

Enhancing Communication Capacity: 

Enhancing Communication Capacity Providers Public Other agencies DOHMH employees

DOHMH staff training: 

DOHMH staff training Risk Communication Media training Speaker’s bureau


Public Informing community leaders Preparedness activities Sending them regular updates about DOHMH activities and information sources Website Email/fax lists of CBOs Educational materials Fact sheets Video Brochures Media Presentations (upon request)

What can people do now to prepare?: 

What can people do now to prepare? Keep informed NYC Aware at Prepare for emergencies Same as for other emergencies Have an emergency plan for your family Where you will meet if something happens Out of state contact to phone Enough food/water for 3 – 4 days Radio with batteries See OEM and Red Cross household preparedness guides

What can people do to protect their health in case of an emergency?: 

What can people do to protect their health in case of an emergency? In the event of any terrorist attack: Turn on TV or radio follow emergency instructions Depending on the threat and risk posed, officials may tell you to: Stay where you are, or Evacuate the area immediately, or Seek shelter at a designated location

Frequently asked questions: 

Frequently asked questions What should I do if there is an attack? Where can people go to get more information? How are we preparing for the needs of “special populations”? What are you doing in my neighborhood? Is my hospital prepared? Will I be able to speak with a live person if there is an emergency?

More challenging FAQs: 

More challenging FAQs The detailed question about a specific agent The worst case/specific case scenario question “Have you been vaccinated against smallpox?” “Do you have enough funding?” / “Is the $ you are spending on preparedness taking away from other core public health activities?”

Example of SARS: 

Example of SARS SARS in NYC As of May 27, 2003 In NYC, there have been 3 probable cases of SARS 19 suspect cases of SARS All recently traveled to affected area no local spread

Messages as of 5/28/03: 

Messages as of 5/28/03 There has been NO community transmission of SARS in NYC No need to avoid any area of the city No need for anyone who has recently traveled to an affected area who DOES NOT HAVE SYMPTOMS to stay home or away from work Best thing for people to do is stay informed DOHMH has been Working with health care providers Investigating possible cases and preparing for the possibility that local spread may occur

How Can People Protect Themselves From SARS?: 

How Can People Protect Themselves From SARS? Avoid nonessential travel to affected areas * WASH HANDS FREQUENTLY! Good General Health Practice No special precautions for the general public If you feel sick, get medical care and stay home Suspect and probable cases of SARS should Stay away from school, work, day care, other public areas until 10 days after fever and respiratory symptoms resolve/subside Avoid visitors * Check the CDC & WHO websites ( & for updated travel advisories

Public information on status of SARS in NYC: 

Public information on status of SARS in NYC DOHMH communicates with the public Community presentations Outreach in and meetings with Chinese/Chinese American communities in NYC Distributing fact sheets Via email/fax lists At presentations/community meetings Information on website, Press releases and press conferences

DOHMH website: 

DOHMH website SARS Facts Fact sheets in multiple languages (English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish) Press Releases (multiple languages) Health Care Provider Information Guidelines and Recommendations for Health Care Workers Number/Status of Probable and Suspected Cases in NYC Links to the CDC and WHO websites

FAQ’s about SARS: 

FAQ’s about SARS Quarantine – why isn’t govt. quarantining everyone coming in from an affected area? Should workplaces, schools, etc. exclude people or quarantine people who come in from an affected area? Will any hospital be a SARS treatment center if SARS spread in NYC? MASKS! Will the health department give them to people if an outbreak? Which kinds are useful?

FAQs about SARS (cont): 

FAQs about SARS (cont) Is it safe to eat in Chinatown? Is saying that there is, at this point, no reason to avoid any area of the city based on science or political correctness? Is saying that you can’t tell if someone has SARS by their race or nationality political correctness or based in science? What are you doing to address discrimination against and stigmatization of Asian people in NYC? My friend was in Flushing and now has a cough, but her doctor won’t do anything about it…Can the health department screen her?

Mental Health: 

Mental Health Always acknowledge the stress of hearing about/thinking about these things Don’t “over-provide” information – for people who are interested, give them resources so they can learn more Let people know that DOHMH has people worrying about all of this full time Resources for people in crisis or who need counseling provided

Final thoughts: 

Final thoughts Provide Regular updates Accurate information

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