Environmental Health in Emergency Response and Preparedness:

The Louisiana Experience.

 

Speaker:                     Cory Frank

IA-EHRT Coordinator, Iowa Department of Public Health

Level of Knowledge: Multi-Level

Short Abstract:

Environmental health practitioners are the front-line troops in the protection of public health systems. They conduct regular inspections and provide education on a daily basis to prevent food, water, or air outbreaks.  Six environmental public health professionals from the State of Iowa were deployed to Louisiana following Katrina.  The team was deployed September 3rd through the 18th, 2005, through an EMAC agreement with the State of Louisiana.  They were called to action immediately as the first state to respond to environmental public health needs in Louisiana, and worked directly with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Overview of the Iowa Public Health Response Team concept and the IA-EHRT (Environmental Health Response Team) involvement in responding to a disaster such as Katrina will be discussed to the target audience.  Lessons learned by the Iowa team will be presented and solutions discussed to their deployment objectives.

Long Abstract:

Six environmental public health professionals from the State of Iowa (EHRT) were deployed to Louisiana September 3rd through the 18th, 2005, through an EMAC agreement with the State of Louisiana.  They were called to action immediately as the first state to respond to environmental health needs in Louisiana, and work directly with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Cory Frank, IA EHRT Coordinator, and other EH specialists met with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and EPA Region 6, to plan a strategy to address the many environmental health concerns present in the State of Louisiana.  Food safety and protecting the public water supplies were the first priorities identified by Louisiana Environmental Health Services Director Bobby Savoie.  The Iowa team went to work on both priorities and worked extensively in the effected parishes of St. Tammany, Washington, Jefferson, and Orleans, conducting water sampling and commercial seafood and retail food establishment assessments and inspections. Some of the issues concerning food safety involved identifying immediate public health threats to the commercial and retail establishments such as: fire, flood, power interruption, contaminated water supply, extended interruption of water supply, sewage back up, and excessive unsanitary conditions.  The Iowa team found all of these conditions present during their work in the effected areas. Assessment forms were completed for each visited location and data was collected concerning those issues. The Iowa team proved that environmental health response efforts are vital during emergencies and disasters.  The valuable experience and knowledge gained during this catastrophe will be put to use here in Iowa or abroad.  This presentation will outline the areas of deployment and discuss potential problems and lessons learned during and following the team's deployment. 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Define what environmental health emergency response is and what local, state, and possible federal roles are related to the response effort.
  2. Review the logistical challenges presented to the Iowa response team and contrast those issues with those at their local or State jurisdiction.
  3. Apply the practical knowledge gained by the IA EHRT response team to their local response plans.