Developing Guidance and Training Materials for Conducting Health Surveillance in Emergency Shelters in New Hampshire
BACKGROUND: Conducting health surveillance during a large-scale incident or disaster provides essential information on the health of residents and provides situational awareness for emergency management and public health professionals. During the activation of an emergency shelter, health surveillance monitors the health of the population in the shelters by monitoring for outbreaks, injuries and the need for resources for behavioral health and chronic disease management. In December 2012, the City of Nashua, NH Division of Public Health and Community Services and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services convened a Shelter Surveillance Work Group to develop guidance and protocols for conducting health surveillance in emergency shelters that aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public health Emergency Preparedness Capability 7, Mass Care, Function 4: Monitor Mass Care Population Health.
METHODS: Starting in December 2012, the Shelter Surveillance Work Group met on a regular basis to research best practices, existing tools and lessons learned from previous disasters to develop guidance that could be disseminated across the state for local towns, cities, health departments, public health regions and volunteer organizations to utilize in emergency shelters. Forms from CDC and guidance from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology were adapted and used as the foundation for developing the guidance.
RESULTS: In June 2013, the work group finalized and disseminated the guidance statewide. The guidance has been presented at three conferences in New Hampshire for emergency managers, public health professional and volunteer organizations. The work group also developed training for medical volunteers that provides an overview and reviews the forms that are used to conduct health surveillance in emergency shelters. Approximately 100 volunteers have been trained as of December 2014. The work group also held a tabletop exercise and trialed the forms during a winter storm in November 2014.
CONCLUSIONS: New Hampshire serves as an example for how other health departments can develop guidance and implement processes for conducting health surveillance in emergency shelters and implement a training plan for training partner agencies in the state on shelter surveillance. During this session, the development and components of the guidance will be reviewed and tips for working with partner organizations will be discussed.
Learning Areas:Environmental health sciences
Protection of the public in relation to communicable diseases including prevention or control
Describe the importance of shelter surveillance in protecting the health of people displaced by a disaster. Discuss how to develop a process for conducting health surveillance in emergency shelters. Identify key components of an effective shelter health surveillance protocol.
Keyword(s): Emergency Preparedness, Epidemiology
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the Epidemiologist for the City of Nashua, NH Division of Public Health and Community Services for the past 6 years and work under the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program. I work on disaster epidemiology projects, such as conducting health surveillance in shelters. I have responsed to 5 emergencies and I am the current Chair for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee and have presented at over 8 conferences.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.