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Public Health Plays an Important Role in Disaster Preparedness and Response

By Heather Kretzer

September 21, 2016

September 26, 2016


FDOH-Bay highlights preparedness program as part of National Disaster Preparedness Month

Heather Kretzer
850-872-4455, ext. 1344

Panama City, Fla.— Many people don’t realize that public health plays an important role in disaster preparedness. The Florida Department of Health in Bay County, FDOH-Bay, has a Planner, Don Rich, whose primary role is to prepare the organization’s Emergency Operations Plan. This plan includes 24 different parts to address many types of situations including; epidemiology, mass care/mass fatalities and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

“Our employees participate in evidence-based training provided by the Florida Department of Health and FEMA. They are required to respond to disasters if called upon to do so,” said Rich. “We train our employees to have a personal plan and encourage all Bay County families to do so as part of this year’s theme, Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”

During the threat of a tropical system, such as the most recent Hurricane Hermine, the Florida Department of Health in Bay County is charged with the opening of a special needs shelter. More than 600 people are currently approved for the special needs shelter. This shelter meets the needs of people who would require assistance beyond the “normal” level during an emergency. Examples include; elderly living in isolate areas, those unable to ambulate and those on oxygen, visually impaired, people on life sustaining medication, developmentally disabled, hearing impaired, and those requiring life sustaining equipment. People meeting these qualifications can register for the special needs shelter by visiting Bay County’s Emergency Operations Center website at  

Disaster situations also require the activation of what is referred to as ESF-8 or Emergency Support Function for Medical/Health. FDOH-Bay’s administrator, Doug Kent, is charged with heading up this effort when called upon by Bay County’s Emergency Operations management team. Through this function, Kent oversees the medical response, ordering of resources and other aspects of health and medical as it relates to a crisis.

FDOH-Bay also oversees volunteers who respond to disasters through the Medical Reserve Corps. These volunteers include licensed medical personnel as well as unlicensed support staff. Training is provided at no-costs to the participants. For more information on this program, contact Andrew Miller at 850-872-4455.  

For more information on FDOH-Bay preparedness, contact Don Rich at 850-872-4455 or visit You can find out more on creating a plan at

About the Florida Department of Health

The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

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