Originally created 12/03/01

Y2K planning is paying off



The Chronicle's Nov. 26 editorial ("Are we prepared?") correctly points out that biological threats will take much more planning and coordination before we can say that we are prepared. Although such threats are minimal, any threat level requires prudent disaster planning, no matter how small.

Fortunately, many of the preparedness measures taken during the Y2K planning effort are now proving very beneficial, but biological incidents create a whole new preparedness void that needs to be filled.

Since numerous counties in this area rely on the Augusta based hospitals for medical care, we are concerned that there could be an influx of people overcrowding those hospitals if there was even a hint of a biological incident in our area.

The Columbia County Emergency Management Agency hosted a meeting in October with representatives from the medical community to begin a discussion on how we can work together, across county lines, to ensure that in the event of a biological incident (or any other type of major incident) that we will be ready.

We are continuing this discussion through the "Disaster Preparedness Committee," which serves 13 counties in our region. Members are comprised of physicians, EMA directors, Red Cross officials, public health officials, and other related professions.

Some of the issues we are researching include identifying centralized medical and pharmaceutical supply facilities and also designating secondary patient assessment centers within each county where residents living within those counties could be assessed and treated.

Of course, this effort will take a great deal of public education, which is also part of the plan.

This plan will assure that the patients needing hospitalization will receive it and the "worried well" individuals can get the reassurance they need without overcrowding the hospitals.

Our work is not finished, but meetings are scheduled and it is a priority of everyone involved to complete this plan as soon as possible so that we will be as prepared as we can be.

Pam Tucker, Evans, Ga.

(Editor's note: The writer is the director of the Columbia County Emergency Services Division.)