Maryland Receives Top Tier Rank in Public Health Preparedness

News Release, Maryland Department of Health

Baltimore, MD – Maryland has been named one of 17 states most prepared for public health emergencies in a report issued by the non-profit public health organization Trust for America’s Health. The Maryland Department of Health Office of Preparedness and Response strives for a prepared Maryland through coordinated statewide public health emergency plans, biosurveillance, partnerships with local health departments and hospitals, medical countermeasure readiness and the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps.

“A public health emergency can happen at any time,” said Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips. “We are proud to be top-ranked in public health preparedness and we will continue to work hard to ensure all Marylanders are safe and ready, should an emergency occur.”

The report, Ready or Not:Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism, used 10 indicators to determine each state’s public health preparedness: incident management; cross-sector community collaboration; accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board; accreditation by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program; size of the public health budget; water security; workforce resiliency and infection control; countermeasure utilization; patient safety; and health security surveillance.

The Office of Preparedness and Response coordinates the state’s public health and medical response during an emergency, including infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism. The Office develops, updates and exercises plans for a variety of emergencies, including medical countermeasures, seasonal flu, Ebola Virus Disease, extreme cold, extreme heat, mass fatalities, and public health and health care services recovery.

To ensure staff are properly trained and ready for any public health emergency, the Office regularly plans and participates in local, state and national exercises. Last year, the Office coordinated with agencies throughout Maryland, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a full-scale exercise designed to test public health readiness during a fictitious hurricane and illness outbreak. The exercise tested Maryland’s ability to receive and distribute medical materials from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s largest supply of medications and medical supplies for use during an emergency. Office of Preparedness and Response staff and Maryland Responds pharmacists used the medical countermeasure plan to ensure secure and safe distribution of these supplies to the local jurisdictions.

Maryland’s public health preparedness also includes using non-traditional data sources, such as deidentified school absenteeism data and pharmacy sales, to quickly identify disease outbreaks and other suspicious patterns of illness. This rapid, automated biosurveillance process allows staff to gather and analyze data more quickly than a traditional method of reporting disease.

The Office of Preparedness and Response is also home to the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps, a community-based volunteer program that helps support public health initiatives and response capabilities in Maryland. Maryland Responders volunteer their skills, expertise and time to assist the state and their communities in a crisis. To learn more about Maryland Responds and sign up to volunteer, visit https://mdr.health.maryland.gov.

In addition to getting involved with Maryland Responds, Marylanders are encouraged to practice public health preparedness by:

  • Creating an emergency kit for their home and vehicle
  • Having enough food, water and medical supplies to last three to five days for each member of the family, including pets
  • Keeping a current list of medications you are taking
  • Making a communications plan with family and friends
  • Becoming familiar with alerts, warnings and local emergency services and sign up for alerts at http://bit.ly/MDpartners
  • Keeping important documents in a waterproof portable container

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