Ellis County Homeland Security is going that extra mile in making sure that Ellis County residents are fully prepared to respond to a public health emergency by introducing Cities Readiness Initiative.

CRI is a pilot program to aid cities and counties in increasing their capacity to help save lives through timely delivery of medicines and medical supplies during a large-scale public health emergency such as a bioterrorism attack or a nuclear accident.

As a result of this pilot program, plans from all levels of government (federal, state and local) will be unified to ensure a consistent, effective and timely response in the event of a large-scale catastrophic event or outbreak of disease.

“We have to recruit 1,350 volunteers to adequately cover Ellis County and it is my responsibility to have volunteers to man our nine point of dispensation sites in two 12-hour shifts,” CRI coordinator Bill Holley explained. “This would allow us to dispense medication to the entire population of Ellis County, which is about 149,000 people.”

The nine POD sites have already been selected and can be activated for any type of emergency.

“We all know that training takes time away from your family and your busy schedule, but this initiative is for the safety of all of our families,” Holley continued. “We are always trying to update and add to our volunteer list so we can respond quickly to a biohazard incident and place our volunteers in the right places.”

The POD system is one of the three mechanisms that will be used to ensure that healthy people receive medicines and medical supplies to safeguard them in the event of a large-scale public health emergency.

CRI’s goal is to set up clinics to provide medications (if necessary) to the population of Ellis County in 48 hours after an event.

“As long as we have volunteers that have had special training, we can activate a site in various areas of the county,” said Tracie Flieg, assistant to Sharon McKinney, emergency management coordinator for Ellis County. “Our goal is to have a functional exercise for our volunteers so we are prepared in the event of an emergency.”

Volunteers will include nurses, law enforcement personnel, drivers, military personnel, and others.

CRI is needed to enhance preparedness at all levels of government and to provide a consistent nationwide approach to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a large-scale public health emergency.

Multiple agencies are engaged in CRI to ensure coordination of response at federal, state and local levels. Operationally, the CRI brings together the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal government plans to provide direct assistance to cities to help them in achieving optimal preparedness for receipt and dispensing of medicines held in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

According to Holley, the Dallas-Fort Worth area ranks No. 9 in threat matrix, and because of the proximity and the larger commuter populations, this places Ellis County at risk.

Recommended actions for residents include:

* Develop a family emergency plan, share it with family friends, and practice the plan. Visit www.ready.gov for help in creating a plan.

* Create an “Emergency Supply Kit” for the household.

* Be informed. Visit www.ready.gov or obtain a copy of “Preparing Makes Sense, Get Ready Now” by calling (800)-Be-Ready.

* Know how to shelter-in-place and how to turn off utilities (power, gas and water) to the home.

* Examine volunteer opportunities in the community, such as Citizen Corps, Volunteers in Police Service, Neighborhood Watch or others and donate time.

* Consider completing an American Red Cross first aid or CPR course.

Holley said CRI is prepared to make presentations at companies and volunteer organizations throughout Ellis County that are interested in learning and lending a helping hand to get the information out to the public in the future.

“We’ll go out at anytime to do a 20-minute PowerPoint training presentation about CRI and how it relates to Ellis County,” Holley said, adding there will also be follow-up training for core leaders and site leaders.

“Naturally, we hope we never have to activate this plan, but this is a great community with some great people in it,” he continued. “We want to be able to respond and offer protection to our families and friends as capable, caring people who are trained and ready to act.”

For more information, visit cri.homeland.security@co.ellis.tx.us.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@waxahachiedailylight.com