Emergency preparedness

In Washington, the local health officer and the boards of health have broad legal authority to protect the life and health of the people within their jurisdictions. This authority is combined with other local emergency response authority and state authority to respond to public health emergencies. The authority for responding to emergencies at Clark County Public Health is delegated by the Health Officer. The local Health Officer is required to institute disease prevention and infection control measures; authorized to carry out necessary steps to prevent disease and control infection; and authorized to enforce the public health statutes of the state and all local health rules, regulations and ordinances. The Board of Health is directed to take actions to preserve life and health of people within their jurisdiction.

A primary responsibility of the Clark County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit is to make sure that Clark County Public Health is ready to respond to emergencies. The set of activities to ensuring the “Operational Readiness” of the department includes developing emergency procedures, training staff, and equipping the department. The Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit performs these essential functions for Clark County: 

  • Maintains the Clark County Public Health Incident Command post
  • Maintains the Clark County Public Health All-Hazards Emergency Response Plan and ensures that it works with other county, regional, and state emergency response plans
  • Provides leadership and coordination of the department-wide Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)
  • Develops emergency communication standards and tools
  • Participates in exercise planning, implementation, and evaluation activities 
  • Develops After-Action Report recommendations, presenting these reports to the Clark County Board of Health, and making sure that any improvements are incorporated into plans 
  • Ensures response operations are in compliance with the standards set forth by the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and by the Incident Command System (ICS) 
  • Develops departmental policies and procedures supporting emergency response operations

The Clark County Public Health Preparedness and Response Unit leads the public health preparedness efforts in Clark County, Cowlitz County, Klickitat County, Skamania County, and Wahkiakum County through the Region IV Public Health Program. Clark County Public Health continuously works to improve its capacity to respond to public health emergencies by enhancing its agency response as well as its ability to work with partner agencies and elected officials. Within Clark County Public Health the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit takes the lead in these efforts, and works closely with the Public Health Director, the Health Officer, Environmental Health Units, The Communicable Disease Unit, and other programs and organizations. Additionally, Clark County Public Health partners with Fire Departments, Law Enforcement Agencies, Emergency Management Agencies, Emergency Medical Services, Hospitals, and others to better prepare our communities for all types of emergencies.

The Region IV Healthcare Preparedness Alliance brings together the resources of multiple public health, healthcare, and emergency management agencies residing in multiple jurisdictions to address all hazards preparedness in Washington’s Public Health Region IV. These organizations voluntarily agree to collaborate in this effort until such time as the members of the organization determine that this alliance does not provide additional value to preparedness efforts. Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH) provides funds through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Program (PHEPR) to develop regional healthcare coalitions to enhance Washington’s ability to provide medical surge capacity and capability in response to public health emergencies.

In any kind of health emergency, protecting yourself and your family will be your first priority. Because health emergencies, just like natural disasters, can happen with little or no warning, Clark County Public Health is asking you and your family to join us in planning for them in advance.

Pandemic flu occurs when a new flu virus rapidly spreads from country to country around the world, causing a global outbreak of serious respiratory illness that spreads easily from person to person. The swift spread of a pandemic flu happens because people are not immune to the new flu virus, and an effective vaccine would take months to develop. Depending on the nature of the virus, many people could become seriously ill and many people could die. Pandemics are not seasonal. A flu pandemic can happen at any time of year. By contrast, seasonal flu is the usual flu that occurs in the late fall, winter, and early spring.

Avian flu, also called bird flu, is flu that originally occurs in birds such as chickens, ducks, waterfowl, and other species. Outbreaks of various avian flu viruses have occurred on several continents including North America in the last five years. A serious new strain of avian flu, called H5N1, has been found in birds in Africa, Asia, and Europe, with the highest concentration of the disease in Southeast Asia. It is transmitted from bird to bird. As wild birds migrate, they spread the disease to wild and domesticated birds in other countries. The ongoing outbreak of avian flu H5N1 has resulted in the killing of millions of chickens and other domestic birds to control the spread of the disease.