Health District: Be prepared for emergency

By Nick Walton -

The Champaign County Health District and its partners are encouraging residents to prepare for emergencies after receiving results of a survey from last year.

The health district completed a Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response or CASPER project last August.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website, a CASPER is an epidemiologic technique designed to provide quick and low-cost household-based information about a community. The CDC developed the CASPER toolkit to assist personnel from any local, state, regional or federal office in conducting a rapid needs assessment to determine the health status, basic needs, or knowledge, attitudes and practices of a community.

Health district emergency preparedness coordinator Jeanne Bowman said the project was completed in collaboration with Mercy Memorial Hospital and the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency. She said CASPER projects are usually conducted after a natural disaster event occurs.

Bowman said 45 people were involved in putting the project together from multiple organizations.

Health Commissioner Gabe Jones said as part of the project a pre-event survey was conducted.

“It is atypical for this particular survey because most communities – Toledo for example – they had a water issue and then they had the survey done afterwards,” Jones said. “We’re gauging the needs of the community prior to something happening so that we can stay ahead of the game.”

Following CDC guidelines for the project, Jones said a survey was conducted using a portion of the population which would be representative of the entire county population.

Household emergency plans

Bowman stated one of the main questions for the population in the survey is if they have an emergency plan in place.

“Do they have food supply, do they have a water supply, do they have a contact list, do they have a plan for where the family’s going to meet,” Bowman said. “Those type of things are what we wanted to know.”

Bowman said survey results showed half of the residents had an emergency plan but this plan only consisted of a contact list.

Jones said the health district and its partners now want to use the data they received from the survey to see where gaps in emergency preparedness are in the community to educate and train people.

“I think we went above and beyond in doing this (survey) and because we did it we identified a lot of gaps,” Jones said. “I think now that we know that we know where to prioritize and where we need to maybe develop new strategies to get the community prepared.”

Bowman said residents need to hold a family discussion to come up with a plan.

“They have to communicate,” Bowman said. “the day it happens is not the time to start talking about it.”

Bowman said an emergency kit containing items such as water, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, a battery-powered or hand crank radio with extra batteries and a first aid kit can be built over time. For example, a person could purchase a can of food which would be part of an emergency supply.

A list of recommended items for an emergency supply kit can be found at

Residents are also encouraged to sign up for the CodeRED weather warning system which alerts residents of severe weather and other critical community alerts in their area. Residents can sign up for this system on the county EMA’s website:

In the event of a disaster, Bowman said people need to have their immunizations up-to-date along with medication lists, contact lists and emergency reference material.

Jones encouraged residents with questions about emergency preparedness to contact the health district or county EMA.

By Nick Walton

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.

Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.