An Eastern Kentucky University homeland security student was recently recognized by FEMA, the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) and Kentucky Emergency Management for developing a solution to track patients through the decontamination process.
Hannah Gabbard is a senior homeland security major who works for Jackson County EMA/CSEPP. This year she produced a “cost-effective solution to tracking difficulties in low-income communities. Ensuring the accountability of citizens and resources during disasters and coordinated exercises per the Incident Command System.” In a nutshell, she created a relatively low-tech solution to a very complex CSEPP problem – the tracking of patients through the decontamination process.
Hannah’s solution has been recognized as a Jackson County Kentucky best practice and she has been invited to speak about it at an upcoming conference.
What is CSEPP?
CSEPP is a partnership designed to protect communities surrounding chemical weapons depots across the United States. Currently, there are two remaining depots. One in Colorado and one in Richmond, Kentucky. The stockpile site in Richmond impacts neighboring communities in ten surrounding counties. The diversity of these communities is extensive and ranges in economic status, age, ethnicity, education, land and home ownership, and community history.
During a chemical response, decontamination is critical to life safety and response time is important. Responders must know who is being treated, their medical concerns, the time of their exposure and other important information.
In Jackson County, that process had historically been paper based. Those working the sites would have to keep track of the papers and the affected people in a high stress environment that included decontamination suits, and the potential for large numbers of patients.
The paper-based method was no longer acceptable for Jackson County. The technology tools that could streamline the process were expensive and the budget was not available to implement them.
The “Easy” Solution
The Jackson County team wanted to take advantage of technology to create a more accessible process for all responders. Hannah and Jamie Strong, the Emergency Management Director for Jackson County, developed a process utilizing Google Sheets, Google Docs, laptops, and the Zoom conference call system.
This solution is low-cost, low maintenance and uses technology platforms that are free and readily accessible. Laptops were made available for patients to interact with responders using Zoom. Staff personnel then recorded information from the patients into a shared Google Sheets document. Patients then continued through medical triage and evaluation with additional staff members adding information to the Google documents.
“Hannah’s solution demonstrates the top-notch problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking skills that we strive to develop in students,” said Dr. Chad Foster, Associate Professor in the Homeland Security program.
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