Jackson Township is preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best through a proposed $10,000 budget appropriation for disaster preparedness in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak or natural catastrophe.
During a Jan. 22 budget discussion preceding the trustees’ regular meeting, Fire Department Deputy Chief Rick Dawson explained the line-item request, citing the need to be prepared in the event the area is hit with a flu involving high rates of infection or a natural disaster impacting the community and supply lines.
"With all of this talk about a pandemic flu, we’re trying to get ahead of the situation," said Dawson. "We’ve been told, with the bird flu or any other type of pandemic flu, they’re projecting up to 60 percent of employees could be out sick. With that high a rate of absenteeism, stores wouldn’t get groceries because suppliers couldn’t make deliveries and too many people would be too sick to work."
He added, "There would be panic in the community. Since we’re an emergency service, we need to be ready for anything. We could be ill prepared if we didn’t do anything. With this appropriation, we could lay in a supply of things like MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat), dried milk, and bottled water for a two to three week supply for our employees."
Dawson said the department needs to take into consideration what can be done if firefighters are stranded at stations due to a natural disaster, such as a blizzard or a flood, or due to a massive flu outbreak. The deputy chief told trustees, agencies throughout Franklin County are coordinating plans and said Jackson Township is trying to be proactive.
According to the Franklin County Board of Health, if the area was struck with a pandemic flu outbreak, day-to-day lives would be greatly affected in numerous ways including: staffing shortages at businesses; transportation, commerce, utilities, public safety and communications significantly impacted; limited to no assistance from state and federal governments due to nationwide impact; and health care facilities would be overwhelmed.
Pandemic flu is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new influenza A virus appears or "emerges" in the human population, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide, reported the county. Past influenza pandemics led to high levels of illness, death, social disruption and economic loss. The Spanish Flu in 1918 was the largest recorded pandemic flu with 40 to 50 million fatalities worldwide and 400,000 to 500,000 in the Unites States.
"Prevention is always a key to limit the effect of a flu whether it be a pandemic or seasonal flu," stated the county on their Web site, www.franklincountyohio.gov.
"Here are a few tips for prevention: Stay at home when you are sick; cover your mouth when you cough; wash your hands regularly; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and avoid close contact with people who are sick."
In addition, the board of health also suggests everyone develop a "Ready in 3" emergency preparedness program for their family and/or business. The components of
"Ready in 3" include: creation of an emergency plan; an emergency kit for home, car, and work; and the need to listen for information about what to do and where to go during an actual emergency.
Jackson Township is following the same advice, albeit on a larger scale, by planning ahead for a potential pandemic flu or natural disaster. Although the amount of the allocation could change before the budget is finalized next month, Dawson was hopeful the department would receive funding for disaster preparedness supplies.