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Environment

Department of Health Joins Hurricane Exercise to Prep for Upcoming Storm Season

THE WESTSIDE GAZETTE — According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Support Function #8 (Public Health and Medical Services) co-ordinates health and medical services in response to a disaster, emergency, or incident that may lead to a public health, medical, behavioral, or human service emergency.

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By Sallie James

The May 9th hurricane exercise centered around the fictitious “Hurricane Smith,” a made-up storm that made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane in Tampa Bay on May 6th.  Under the exercise narrative, Broward’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated at 8 a.m. on May 9th due to heavy rain and high winds that caused widespread flooding and damage to the South Florida region.

The storm spawned several tornadoes, caused a breach in the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, and required the opening of several shelters. Emergency responders, which also include the Florida Department of Health (DOH), had to figure out what to do, when to do it and how to get it done.

Did you know the DOH is responsible for medical management and staffing the county’s special needs shelters and coordinating the delivery of medical care in an emergency? During an emergency, the DOH works side by side with first responders like police, fire rescue and hospitals to coordinate resources such as ambulances, hospital beds and other medical resources and services.

Although every scenario associated with the mock “Hurricane Smith” was fictitious, the focus and intensity of the exercise at the EOC was not: More than 200 emergency responders had to think on their feet during the four-hour drill that included an unplanned computer glitch that affected the ability to transmit electronic messages and forced employees from 25 agencies to revert to the use of paper messages and talk face-to-face to arrange services and find solutions to help people in need.

Hurricane Season 2019 began June 1st and ends November 30.

“We are health and medical and so anytime there is an incident in the county that could overburden the healthcare system, we get involved,” explained Terri Sudden, Director of Public Health Preparedness for the DOH in Broward County. “If there were a train with multiple injuries, a plane crash or bad accident on I-95 with numerous fatalities, we would respond.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Support Function #8 (Public Health and Medical Services) co-ordinates health and medical services in response to a disaster, emergency, or incident that may lead to a public health, medical, behavioral, or human service emergency.

Exercises like the Hurricane Smith scenario provide an opportunity for emergency responders to practice what they know and learn to ask when they don’t know the answer so they can be prepared when a real event occurs, Sudden said.

“Our job is to exercise those plans and make sure they work and tweak them so they work better,” Sudden noted. “It’s a training exercise to test how resourceful someone can be. You basically do whatever you need to do to be responsive to whatever the need is. It’s also about relationships so you get to know the people at other tables. It gives familiarity as to where everybody is located at the EOC.”

Tracy Jackson, Director of Broward County’s Emergency Management Division, said the hurricane exercise allowed participants to practice their responses and then evaluate them with no adverse consequences.

“We get the opportunity without the stress of a real incident to practice the skills we need,” Jackson said at the end of the exercise. “It gives us the chance to troubleshoot things that work and things that don’t work as well. It also gives us a chance to get input from our partners.”

Jackson opened the exercise by emphasizing the importance of teamwork.

“We can’t over-emphasize how important it is for us to be unified,” Jackson said. “More than 1.9 million people outside this room are depending on the decisions you are going to make.”

Jackson told participants they would have to make decisions even though they might not have enough information and warned there would be no guarantee of success. He urged them to soldier on.

“Our confidence is high in you and in us,” Jackson said.

Participants from across the county sat in chairs at long tables equipped with phones and computers. Drill monitors walked the room, wearing vests that bore names like “evaluator” (they record how projects were accomplished) and “controller” (they provided “injects” or scenarios for the exercise and made sure it maintained its pace).

Participants were instructed to do their best to resolve whatever problems they were given. They made phone-calls, consulted with representatives from other cities and agencies and figured out solutions for complicated problems.

DOH employee James Turchetta, Cities Readiness Coordinator, served as a controller during the exercise and kept his team busy with an array of jarring incidents. His team members were resourceful and determined. They found answers.

“I think overall it went great,” Turchetta said. Jackson’s assessment was similar.

“We are happy with the information we gained, the observations we made and the opportunity to improve,” Jackson said.

For more information about how you can be better prepared for emergencies, visit:  http://broward.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/emergency-preparedness-and-response/personal-and-family-preparedness/index.html

This article originally appeared in The Westside Gazette

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African American News & Issues

Reparations: How ‘Intentional’ Government Policy Denied Blacks Access to Wealth

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

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Stock photo of a vault with access denied written across it

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the Black community owned less than 1% of the United States’ total wealth, the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was told during its fourth meeting.

Mehrsa Baradaran, a professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law, shared the statistics during the “Racism in Banking, Tax, and Labor” portion of the two-day meeting on October 13.

From her perspective, the power of wealth and personal income is still unequally distributed. And that inequality, in her view, has always been allowed, preserved and compounded by laws and government policy.

“More than 150 years later, that number has barely budged,” Baradaran told the Task Force, tracing the wealth gap from the period after the Civil War when President Lincoln granted formerly enslaved Blacks their freedom to the present day.

“The gap between average white wealth and Black wealth has actually increased over the last decades. Today, across every social-economic level, Black families have a fraction of the wealth that white families have,” she said.

Baradaran has written a range of entries and books about banking law, financial inclusion, inequality, and the racial wealth gap. Her scholarship includes the books “How the Other Half Banks” and “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” both published by the Harvard University Press.

Baradaran has also published several articles on race and economics, including “Jim Crow Credit” in the Irvine Law Review, “Regulation by Hypothetical” in the Vanderbilt Law Review, and “How the Poor Got Cut Out of Banking” in the Emory Law Journal.

Baradaran, a 43-year-old immigrant born in Iran, testified that her work on the wealth gap in America was conducted from a “research angle” and she respectfully “submitted” her testimony “in that light,” she said.

In her research, Baradaran explained that she discovered an intentional system of financial oppression.

“This wealth chasm doesn’t abate with income or with education. In other words, this is a wealth gap that is pretty much tied to a history of exclusion and exploitation and not to be remedied by higher education and higher income,” Baradaran said.

According to a January 2020 report, the Public Policy Institute of California said African American and Latino families make up 12% of those with incomes above the 90th percentile in the state, despite comprising 43% of all families in California.

In addition, PPIC reported that such disparities mirror the fact that African American and Latino adults are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and have higher unemployment rates, and African American adults are less likely to be in the labor force.

Many issues support these activities that range from disparities around education, local job opportunities, and incarceration to discrimination in the labor market, according to PPIC.

“While California’s economy outperforms the nation’s, its level of income inequality exceeds that of all but five states,” the report stated.

“Without target policies, it will continue to grow,” Baradaran said of the wealth gap. “And I want to be clear of how this wealth gap will continue to grow. It was created, maintained, and perpetuated through public policy at the federal, state, and local levels.

“Black men and women have been shut out of most avenues of middle-class creations. Black homes, farms, and savings were not given the full protection of the law. Especially as these properties were subjected to racial terrorism. The American middle-class was not created that way (to support Black communities),” Baradaran said.

A June 2018 working paper from the Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute written by economists familiar with moderate-to-weak Black wealth backs up Baradaran’s assessment.

Published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the authors of the report wrote that strategies to deny Blacks access to wealth started at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, picked up around the civil rights movement, and resurfaced around the financial crisis of the late 2000s.

Authored by Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, and Ulrike I. Steins, the “Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016” explains a close analysis of racial inequality, pre-and post-civil rights eras.

The economists wrote that the median Black household has less than 11% of the wealth of the median white household, which is about $15,000 versus $140,000 in 2016 prices.

“The overall summary is bleak,” the report states. “The historical data also reveal that no progress has been made in reducing income and wealth inequalities between black and white households over the past 70 years.”

Baradaran recently participated in the virtual symposium, “Racism and the Economy: Focus on the Wealth Divide” hosted by 12 District Banks of the Federal Reserve System, which includes the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

There are some positives that are not typically included in discussions about the challenges Blacks have experienced historically in efforts to obtain wealth, Baradaran said. Many African Americans, specifically in California, were able to subvert the systems that discriminated against them.

“Black institutions have been creative and innovative serving their communities in a hostile climate,” Baradaran said. “I’ve written a book about the long history of entrepreneurship, self-help, and mutual uplift. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have provided stellar education and Black banks have supported Black businesses, churches, and families.”

California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate inequity in education, labor, wealth, housing, tax, and environmental justice.

All of these areas were covered with expert testimony during the two-day meeting held on October 12 and October 13. The task force is charged with exploring California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the historic denial of Black citizens’ constitutional rights.

Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act eliminated racial discrimination in lending, the Black community continues to be denied mortgage loans at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

“Banks and corporations have engaged in lending and hiring practices that helped to solidify patterns of racial inequality,” Jacqueline Jones, a history professor from the University of Texas told the Task Force.

The Racism in Banking, Tax and Labor segment also featured testimonies by Williams Spriggs (former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University. Spriggs now serves as chief economist to the AFL-CIO), Thomas Craemer (public policy professor at the University of Connecticut), and Lawrence Lucas (U.S. Department of Agriculture Coalition of Minority Employees).

The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans will conduct its fifth and final meeting of 2021 on December 6 and December 7.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Commentary

COMMENTARY: Together, We Can Save Our Water and Our Future

As Californians, we’re no strangers to the drought, but as we anticipate another dry year, it’s more important than ever for all of us to take action to save our water for today and  years to come.

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Beautiful sunset and the windmill

For some reason, the day we learned about the water cycle in science class stayed with me. Then, many years later, when deciding on a career I knew that I wanted to help bring clean water to homes that currently didn’t have access to safe and reliable drinking water and to protect the environment for future generations.

Now that I serve on the board of the state agency that is responsible for protecting and managing California’s water resources, my view of what it means to ensure people have access to water has expanded, especially as we grapple with another drought.

Board Member Nichole Morgan of the California Water Resources Control. Photo courtesy of Lagrant Communications.

California is only getting hotter and drier. We’re seeing it all over the news as the water crisis hits closer and closer to home. Karla Nemeth, director of the state Department of Water Resources, put our harsh reality into perspective when she said, “the challenge is there is no water.”

As Californians, we’re no strangers to the drought, but as we anticipate another dry year, it’s more important than ever for all of us to take action to save our water for today and  years to come.

It is imperative for us to understand that the drought truly impacts everyone. From our state’s ecosystems to its economy, we all rely on an ample water supply; without it, we all suffer.

Climate change is ultimately driving these threats to California, including the dire drought conditions, low reservoir levels and parched landscapes seen throughout the West.

Unfortunately, we can already see some of the consequences of the overuse of water. California’s fish and wildlife are facing severe challenges, threatening the survival of species, including our iconic Chinook salmon.

The drought also affects businesses across California, especially small business, like family-owned restaurants and hotels. Many business owners are already struggling to reconcile dried out wells and limited water supply, in addition to still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water is essential not only to keep our economy healthy, but to keep our communities thriving with business that foundation to many of our communities.

Now is the time to strengthen conservation efforts and make active changes to save water.  We know that it can be hard to change our habits when it comes to conserving water, but the smallest changes really can make a difference. If we all make little changes in our daily routine to save water, it adds up. Below are some simple steps we can all follow to conserve water both indoors and out.

Inside the Home:

  1. Wash your produce in the container instead of under running water.
  2. Only use your dishwasher and washing machine for full loads.
  3. Install low-flow shower heads as well as taking shorter showers. Showers under 5 minutes can save about 15 gallons, saving you money and the planet!
  4. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth and soaping your hands.
  5. Install a high-efficiency (HET) 1.28 gallons-per flush toilet. Check with your water supplier for current rebate information.

Outside the Home:

  1. Water your yard in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.
  2. Check your sprinkler system and adjust them so that only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street to eliminate any wasteful runoff.
  3. Plant drought-resistant trees and plants! There are so many options to create a beautiful landscape that conserves water – succulents and California poppies are great options.
  4. Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks, patios and walkways instead of hosing them down.
  5. If you have a pool, install a pool cover to reduce evaporation and filter backwash. And, if draining your pool is necessary, make sure to find a use for that water.

We know it won’t be easy, but it’s up to us to make the necessary changes to conserve the water that we need. Let’s make sure our kids and future generations get to enjoy the California that we know and love. Together, we can make our water last. Visit www.saveourwater.com to learn more about what you can do to help.

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