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Disaster preparedness- being ready for the worst

With the 49 Fire in Auburn in 2009 and the recent blaze at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville, the need to be prepared for real-life disasters in Placer County is relevant.

To make sure local health care organizations can handle any type of emergency, several long-term care facilities have recently joined forces with local emergency personnel and Placer County to participate in a federally-funded grant called the Hospital Preparedness Program.

Managed by the California Department of Public Health, Emergency Preparedness Office, the purpose of the program is to help prepare local health care systems for any type of hazard.

Taking part in the 2010-2011 HPP are Sutter Faith Hospital, Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center-Roseville. In addition to these acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities in Auburn including Horizon West-Foothill Oaks, Horizon West -Colonial Care Center, Siena Care Center, Country Villa and Auburn Ravine Terrace as well as Oakridge Healthcare and Horizon West -Roseville Care Center in Roseville are also participating. Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic in Auburn and American Medical Response West are additional participants.

Ron Reyes, executive director of Colonial, said he is thankful his facility is participating this year.

“Learning from our experience during the 49 Fire we realized that we need all available resources we could get in times of such emergencies,” Reyes said.

Joan Martellucci, executive director of Siena Care Center in Auburn said she also understands the need for coordination.

“Being prepared during any type of emergency is important for those of us who care for the elderly and those who are ill,” Martellucci said. “Just knowing who to call in an emergency is invaluable.”

This is the ninth year the HPP grant has been in place and this year the allocation for Placer County is $259,807. The monies from the grant can be used for equipment and training of personnel.

Grant participants have been meeting on a regular basis throughout the year. One of the priorities is ensuring that all agencies and healthcare organizations can communicate with each other during emergencies. A communications exercise was recently conducted and a more comprehensive drill is being considered for May, 2011.

Tony Corado, South Placer Fire District Chief, said the need for everyone to be included is essential.

“Evacuation can be a problem for the fire department for those in hospitals and long-term care facilities,” Corado said. “Part of HPP is making sure the staff at the long-term care facilities have a clear sense of how to proceed in case of emergency. We are set up with our mutual aid protocol to get emergency personnel where they need to be whenever the need arises.”

Dr. Mark Starr, Placer County’s Health and Human Services director of Community Health, Clinics and Animal Services said that the primary responsibility for having emergency plans in place rests with the care facilities. The role of the county is to help make preparedness at all levels as good as it can be.

“Those hospitalized or residing in long-term care facilities have special needs and challenges due to their lack of mobility,” Starr said. “It’s important for cooperation and coordination between city and county emergency personnel and local health institutions to come up with a plan that allows for everyone to be safe in an emergency.”

Disclosure: Susan Belknap is public relations manager for Horizon West Healthcare.

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