September 3, 2013
National Preparedness Month
This September marks the tenth anniversary of National Preparedness Month. Over the past decade, we have learned a tremendous amount about the impact of disasters on physical and mental health. We can be proud of the strides our nation has made to become better prepared to protect health during emergencies, whether from terrorism like 9/11 or the Boston bombing, from natural disasters like tornados or hurricanes, or from emerging infectious diseases like the H1N1 pandemic influenza.
Today, we have a system in place to augment state and local health agencies with personnel, equipment and supplies when federal help is needed to provide care and protect public health. We have frameworks and strategies that guide planning, response and recovery. Our Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Hospital Preparedness Programs have helped communities become better prepared for natural disasters and disease pandemics. We have at the ready a Strategic National Stockpile of medical countermeasures – drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and medical supplies for health emergencies. And thanks to the Project BioShield Act, we have become a global leader with a robust pipeline of new innovative drugs and products in development for use in health emergencies.
While our federal family is becoming better prepared to support the nation, we know that being truly resilient requires the whole community coming together. Simply put: bystanders can’t stand by. We’ve seen countless times that bystanders are truly the first responders. They save lives. Each of us must be ready to help others when every minute counts.
While taking a first aid class or a CPR class is always helpful, we may not need formal training to save someone’s life or provide them with basic care they desperately need at that moment. Sometimes, we just need to be willing to help carry someone who is hurt to safety, provide comfort to someone who is frightened, or help someone find the medical care they need.
Being ready means being aware of potential risks, understanding where we can turn for help, and being prepared and willing to help our neighbors and community members. So I encourage everyone to talk with family, friends and neighbors and together think through what to do in an emergency. Find out who has special needs and requires a little extra help. As bystanders and neighbors, we can make a tremendous difference in the health of our families, our communities, and our nation.