Its Severe Weather Awareness Week - Are You Prepared?

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Governor Rick Perry has proclaimed the week of March 410, 2007 as Severe Weather Awareness Week 2007 throughout Texas. Springtime in Texas translates to severe weather time. The likelihood of damaging hail and winds, tornados, lightning strikes and flash flooding greatly increases during the spring months. Such threats can happen quickly and with very little warning. During Severe Weather Awareness Week, Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) encourages residents to become personally prepared for any emergency situation. DCHHS continues to prepare for public health emergencies such as a pandemic flu and
offers several suggestions to citizens on what they can do now to prepare for any public health emergency.

"Each year we hear of families who loose everything during catastrophic, weatherrelated incidents," said
Zachary Thompson, DCHHS Director. "It is imperative that Dallas County residents take personal responsibility by having a disaster plan for their families and a Go Kit in their homes. Dallas County Health and Human Services is at the forefront nationwide of public health preparedness efforts. Our staff works daily to ensure the health and safety of all Dallas County residents. We have plans in place to address natural and manmade disasters and we test these plans on a continual basis. We now call on the residents of Dallas County to do their part by making sure their households and places of business are prepared," Thompson continued.

DCHHS works diligently to keep the public informed about public health issues and to prepare critical partners for public health threats such as pandemic influenza. In multiple exercises focusing on a full range of scenarios from anthrax to pandemic influenza, DCHHS has tested its emergency preparedness plans and taken the lessons learn from each to make the agency better prepared for reallife situations.

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DCHHS has committed its resources to ensuring that critical infrastructure will continue to operate during an emergency event. One such component is a comprehensive emergency telecommunications system . This system consists of a satellite base station mounted on the roof of the 2377 N. Stemmons headquarters building, and three transportable satcom systems, which can be deployed anywhere, anytime, to provide emergency communications services. The base station is cabled into the DCHHS emergency operations center, and provides a full range of communications services including analog voice telephone, analog fax,
VOIP telephone, Internet access, email, and IP video. The system is designed to operate independently
of the local public communications network in Dallas County. In addition to the satellite system, VHF/UHF antenna systems and cabling have been installed at the headquarters building in support of the Amateur Radio service.

In the event of an actual public health emergency, everyone has a role to play to ensure the health and welfare of their families, friends, and community. So what can the public do now to make sure they are ready? First, DCHHS encourages everyone to follow good health habits to help prevent the spread of the flu and other diseases and to teach these habits to their children. "These are simple, yet effective methods, that we need to make routine: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home or avoid close contact with others when you are sick. Cover your mouth and nose or cough into bend of your arm. Wash your hands with soap and water or alcoholbased hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth," said Dr. John Carlo, DCHHS Medical Director.

The second thing DCHHS urges is for everyone to take personal responsibility in developing a preparedness plan for their homes. "Personal preparedness must be a priority in every household in Dallas County," Thompson continued. "Whether we are talking about tornados, ice storms, or the possibility of a pandemic influenza we are encourage citizens to have both an evacuation and shelterathome plan in place to
ensure the safety and welfare of family members," Thompson said.

In some emergencies, such as pandemic influenza, the public may be asked to shelter at home. If you have to shelter at home, there are six basics you should stock for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools, emergency supplies, and special items. Below are suggested guidelines for the items you will need to prepare your home for an emergency event. DCHHS recommends that you have a two week supply of each item for every person in your home, update your food and water supply, replace batteries, every six months and rethink your kit and family needs at least once a year.

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