Vermont is prepared to communicate about health in emergencies
Time necessary to issue official information regarding a public health emergency
Story Behind the Curve
One measure of preparedness is the time it takes for the Health Department to alert the public about infectious disease outbreaks, disasters or environmental hazards that threaten human health. Rapid release of accurate and credible information can minimize rumors and misinformation, and empower people to take positive action to protect themselves and others.
The methodology and standard for measuring this Healthy People 2020 indicator is still in development. Longer response time is worse performance, but the need for speed varies according to the type of emergency. For example, a radiological emergency requires an immediate response (minutes), compared to an unusual rise in the number of whooping cough cases (days). For this reason, it is difficult to set a standard measure that would apply to every emergency event. What we can do is determine a target for each event, drill or exercise, and then document the time it takes from notification of the event to issuing official information.
This will be formally tested during the 2016 statewide Vigilant Guard exercise. After-action reviews of public health events and emergencies will also evaluate the timing of public health information releases.
Why Is This Important?
Communication is an essential part of response to any public health event or emergency. Individuals, families and communities need timely, clear and credible information to take action to protect themselves and others from harm.
This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.
Vermont Department of Health
Vermont Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security
Other state and local officials
News agencies and reporters
The Health Department has made use of the evidence-based Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication principles since they were first formulated in 2002, and as they have evolved since. Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication is an approach to communicating effectively during emergencies. These principles are used by public health professionals and public information officers to provide information that helps individuals, stakeholders and entire communities make the best possible decisions for themselves and their loved ones. CERC recognizes that during emergencies, we work under impossible time constraints and must accept the imperfect nature of our choices. CERC draws from lessons learned during public health emergencies and research in the fields of public health and emergency risk communication. The CERC program consists of 1) training, 2) resources, and 3) shared learning. CERC training and resources are now available at www.emergency.cdc.gov/cerc/
Follow the Health Department's Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) plan, which includes templates for message development, news releases and social media messages. Train and exercise Health Department staff who make up the CERC team in an emergency event.
Notes on Methodology
The methodology and standard for measuring this Healthy People 2020 indicator is still in development. Below is a simple methodology to be used in the interim.
Start time: The date and time that a designated official notified communication staff of a public health event or emergency, and the targeted date and time set for official information about the event to be issued
Stop time: The date and time that official information about the event was issued
After-action evaluation of each exercise, emergency or event will consider timeliness of public information issued at the start and throughout the event.