Health Department’s Actions in Hurricanes

A hurricane is a tropical phenomenon that is formed by sustained winds of enormous velocity. Hurricanes rate among the most devastating of all the natural disasters, which means that timely preparedness for them (in the form of precautionary measures) is crucial for avoiding or mitigating their damaging effects and threats to personal safety and life (Sammartinova, Donatello, Eisenman, Glik, & Prelip, 2014).

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The major role of Health Department officials in case of cataclysms is to coordinate the response of all the medical personnel that is a charge of rendering continuous aid to a huge number of patients with various needs (injured people, people with chronic diseases, which get aggravated as the hurricane cuts people off from medical services, etc.) (Sebek, Jacobson, Wang, Newton-Dame, & Singer, 2014). Thus, their actions have to be scheduled and controlled by an official who had to ensure that all the parties involved in health care providers receive the necessary resources for doing their job without delay (Sammartinova et al., 2014).

Other essential tasks that have to be performed immediately include the following ones (Rudowitz, Rowland, & Shartzer, 2006)

Assessment of the needs of the community as events unfold.

As soon as the hurricane occurs, Health Department must mobilize the work of laboratories and health surveillance systems in order to collect all the necessary data about the status of the local community (what type of houses is prevalent, if there are underground shelters, what kind of diseases are the most common, that is the average age of the population, etc.). All this information is required for addressing the problems that may get aggravated by the extreme conditions after the disaster.

Identification of strategies to prevent and control the spread of disease

Most deaths after the hurricane are over are caused not by injuries but by the lack of freshwater (which leads to dehydration and heat strokes), poorly ventilated shelters, infections due to the absence of immunization, etc. The task of a Health Department official is to make sure that emergency workers and injured people are immunized first as there is a great risk of catching an infection for them. Besides, we must ensure that water supplies do not contain any toxic chemicals. All the shelters must be properly examined and ventilated. People with chronic diseases should be sent to hospitals if their condition can be aggravated by infections.

Identification of communication channels to ensure accurate disseminate of information to colleagues and the public

Health Department must be prepared for the failure of communication systems. It means that panic caused by the impossibility of proper coordination and information delivery should be eliminated. In this case it is important to assess and prioritize needs in advance. In case some channels remained intact, the officials must disseminate information about all the necessary measures through them. Even leaflets and posters can help in case there is no radio or TV.

Identification of strategies for the distribution of supplies

First and foremost, we must get rid of all the food that gets spoilt when unrefrigerated as it can cause diseases. Next, we should deliver supplies to the areas that are cut off from the rest of the city. Next, the supplies must be distributed first among the groups that need them most (children, women, sick people, etc.).

Identification of actions that must be completed immediately

Health officials must ensure that the first medical aid is rendered to those who cannot be evacuated from the disaster site immediately. Besides injuries that threaten life, post-traumatic stress should also be addressed as soon as possible. It is desirable that all the victims receive water supplies, as dehydration can trigger the spread of diseases.

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If all the enumerated steps are taken in due time and though the implementation of a proper strategy, the consequences of a hurricane can be considerably mitigated.


Rudowitz, R., Rowland, D., & Shartzer, A. (2006). Health care in New Orleans before and after hurricane Katrina. Health Affairs, 25(5), w393-w406.

Sammartinova, J., Donatello, I., Eisenman, D., Glik, D., & Prelip, M. (2014). Local public Health Departments’ satisfaction with community engagement for emergency preparedness. American J Bioterror Biosecur Biodefens, 1(1), 6-13.

Sebek, K., Jacobson, L., Wang, J., Newton-Dame, R., & Singer, J. (2014). Assessing capacity and disease burden in a virtual network of New York City primary care providers following Hurricane Sandy. Journal of Urban Health, 91(4), 615-622.

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