PUBLIC HEALTH DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
Disasters can affect every community, regardless of
location, size, and demographics. They can be natural or man-made,
have a gradual or sudden onset, with a short or long duration. The
frequency and impact of disasters has increased dramatically since
the 1950’s due to increasing populations, globalization, and
Some disasters can be prevented (for example, if
most individuals are vaccinated or immunized against a particular
disease it may not be able to spread). There is nothing that can be
done to prevent some disasters, such as hurricanes. However, their
negative effects can be minimized if we have planned and prepared in
The Department of Homeland Security developed a website with a
great deal of information to help individuals, families and
businesses prepare for disasters.
For specific information related to disasters in Lee
County (i.e., a list of public shelters, All Hazards guide,
evacuation routes and more) please see
Lee County Emergency Management’s website.
The most probable threats to Southwest Florida come from
hurricanes or other tropical storms and epidemics/pandemics.
Lee County is, at times, threatened by hurricanes and other
severe tropical storms. The most recent hurricanes that had an
impact on Lee County were Charlie in 2004, Wilma in 2004, and
Faye in 2008. These hurricanes caused various amounts of damage
and widespread power outages that, in some cases, lasted for
public shelters will open in Lee County when it appears
that a hurricane will make landfall nearby.
Some county residents, who have medical issues but are able to
live at home under normal circumstances, may be at special risk
in the event of a hurricane and power failure. Lee County’s
special needs shelters are designed to assist these individuals.
Advanced registration for special needs shelters
is required each year.
Hurricane Center has information about tropical storms and
hurricanes that are currently threatening the United States.It also has information to help you prepare for hurricanes.
An epidemic occurs when the new cases of a disease break out in
a given population, during a given period, are substantially
higher than what was expected. Because it is based on what is
expected or normal, a few cases of a very rare disease may be
classified as an epidemic, while many cases of a common disease
(such as the common cold) would not.
A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads
through populations across a large region, such as a continent,
or even the entire world. Pandemics occur when a disease that
can cause serious illness is able to spread easily among humans.
Two recent flu types have caused world-wide concern: bird flu
and swine flu.
appears to be the most virulent of the two yet it is currently not
easily spread from human to human.
Swine flu (or H1N1), on the other hand, seems to effortlessly
infect new hosts but its effects are not nearly as deadly.
There are some very simple actions everyone can take that will
lessen the spread of flu and colds:
- Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or
otherwise appear ill
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Wash your hands often
- If you are ill, stay home from work, school and other
Cough and sneeze into your sleeve
- If you think you have influenza, please call your health care
provider and discuss whether you need to be seen in their
office, emergency department, or stay home.
Southwest Florida Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers are a great
resource for the Lee County Health Department during disaster
response and in preparing for disasters. MRC members consist of
medical professionals and lay persons – all have an important role
to fill. They assist in special needs shelters, flu vaccine clinics,
alternate medical care sites in mass casualties, disaster behavioral
health, and much more. For more information and/or to join this fine
organization, please see their website.