Emergency Preparedness: Expecting the Unexpected

Webster County Public Health, along with other Webster County agencies, has been strengthening its readiness to respond to public health emergencies. These types of emergencies could result from naturally occurring events, such as floods, tornadoes or infectious diseases, or they could result from man-made disasters, such as the intentional release of biological agents.

Your public health department is involved in the following activities throughout the year to assist in making you and your family members’ lives healthier:

  • Investigating cases of infectious diseases;
  • Preventing and controlling infectious diseases; and
  • Providing environmental health inspections or assessment services.
How is the county prepared to respond to health emergencies?

Webster County Health Department (WCHD) has been working together with other agencies to develop a strong system for responding to a wide range of potential health disasters, including bioterrorism. Our past responses to events such as floods, tornadoes and disease outbreaks are examples of the department’s readiness to respond effectively to public health threats. Just as they have done during previous events, WCHD staff will investigate cases of infectious disease, implement prevention and control measures, hold public clinics to provide medicines or vaccinations, and conduct environmental inspections.

During a public health emergency, the following are examples of actions WCHD staff will take:

  • Be alerted that an unusually high number of individuals have developed a disease that may pose a threat to others.
  • Work closely with the Hygienic Laboratory to test for a wide range of infectious diseases.
  • Notify the public and various groups of steps they can take to prevent and control illness and disease.
  • Provide preventive medicines or vaccinations to Webster County residents when the situation warrants.
  • Work with healthcare and other stake holder agencies to meet the needs of all Webster County residents.
  • Provide environmental health inspections or assessment services.
How will Webster County residents know that a health threat has been identified?

Once enough information is known, and after consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Webster County Health Department will alert health care providers, hospitals, clinics and others in the community. The alert will explain the nature of the public health threat and how a response will be coordinated. Depending on the nature of the event, the response could include any one of the following:

  • Guidelines for health care providers for the treatment of patients who have specific symptoms.
  • Ways to prevent spreading the disease.
  • Public announcements to describe actions individuals can take to minimize contracting disease or avoid spreading infections to others.
  • The public would be informed regarding the best steps to take to protect their health through press releases to news media and the Webster County Health Department website.
  • Mobilization of volunteers to establish vaccination or medication clinics for large groups of people, if necessary.
  • Sign up for the CodeRED Emergency Notification System. This enables county and city officials to send emergency phone messages very rapidly to the community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

What can YOU do?

Prepare yourself and your family.  County residents can take steps to prepare. Having a plan in place helps to ensure that you and your family will know how to find each other, hear important instructions from state and county officials, and respond in a way that keeps you and others in the area safe. Emergency management officials use an “all-hazards” approach to emergency preparedness, which means that one plan can be used for several kinds of emergencies, including storms, blackouts, and terrorism.

By being prepared, you can reduce your family’s anxieties, fears and losses. These three key steps will assist you in being prepared to react to emergency situations:

Get A Kit

Assemble an emergency supply kit in an easy-to-carry container (such as a duffle bag, backpack, or trash container). This way you will be prepared, whether you need to evacuate to a different location or stay where you are.

Be sure to know about food and water safety in emergency situations.

Additional Resources

Make A Plan

Create a household emergency plan.

Practice your plan to make sure all family members, including children, remember what they should do in case of emergencies.

Make copies of an Emergency Contact Card for all family members to carry at all times.

Know what emergency plans are in place for your workplace and school.

Be Informed

Learn about the potential emergencies most likely to affect Iowa and Webster County specifically (winter storms, tornados, floods, etc.).  Know what actions you should take in these emergencies and learn about county emergency plans that are in place.

Useful Imformative Sites:

In addition, there are some very important things you can do:

  • Remain calm.
  • Contact your physician if you have questions about your health.
  • Take care of yourself and maintain a healthy immune system.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Get rest, exercise and eat right.
    • Keep immunizations up to date.
    • Observe good hygiene and food safety.
    • Cover your mouth when you cough.
    • Wash your hands after coughing.
    • Wash your hands after using the restroom.
  • Seek the services of a mental health professional if you are feeling extremely stressed or depressed.
  • Don’t take unnecessary precautions - such as seeking antibiotics and vaccines - as these may do more harm than good.
Resource Links

Resource Links

State Resources:

Iowa Department of Public Health

 University of Iowa

National Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Red Cross

Homeland Security

United States Postal Service

Resources In Other Languages

Protect Iowa Health

  • Health Information Translations

The Red Cross

Healthy Roads Media

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Resources For Businesses

It is important for businesses to have comprehensive emergency plans to protect their employees and their customers, in addition to ensuring the survival of business operations. The following websites will assist in your planning process.

Safeguard Iowa Partnership
     •  http://www.safeguardiowa.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
     •  National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Emergency Response Resources

National Business Group on Health
     • Emergency Preparedness and Response
     • Pandemic Preparedness

Homeland Security
     •  Ready Business

American Red Cross
     •  Prepare Your Workplace and Employees

Resources For Health Care Providers

Iowa Hospital Association
     •  www.ihaonline.org

Iowa Medical Society
     •  http://www.iowamedical.org

US Health and Human Services
     •  Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
     •  Hospital Preparedness Program

National Library of Medicine
     •  Anthrax Information

Important Phone Numbers

Webster County Public Health On Call Emergency Phone 1-515-571-8587
To report suspicious packages or substances Call your local law enforcement agency 911
To report a disaster or terrorism event Iowa Department of Public Health 1-866-834-9671
To report a disease or suspected bioterrorism disease 1-800-362-2736
To volunteer at the Webster County Public Health 1-515-573-4107
For questions regarding laboratory services University Hygienic Laboratory 1-319-335-4500