Disasters can pose a threat to public health both during the event and long in the wake of its aftermath. Natural disasters can disrupt utilities and cut people off from fresh water or food and even result in fires or explosions that can send toxic fumes and debris into the air, putting entire populations at risk of infection. Other emergencies have clear public health implications from the outset. A deliberate biochemical attack, for example, poses direct and immediate threats that can easily spread beyond the initial impact zone.
In fact, there is scarcely an emergency situation that does not have some public health component. This is why public health preparedness is such a critical component of any disaster readiness plan. From controlling the spread of disease inside a single hospital, to managing an outbreak as it traverses an entire region - public health preparedness specialists are needed to develop plans, coordinate responses and use prior experiences to help prevent the next crisis from even occurring.
This specialization is just one of the many career outcomes of the Online Emergency Management and Homeland Security degree at Arizona State University. With this, students may one day play a critical role in helping keep communities and individuals safe from harm in the event of a disaster.
Joining the Ultimate Team Effort
While the fallout from some disasters can be easily contained, many types of public health emergencies are dangerous precisely because of their potential to spread. Health preparedness specialists working in the public health sector must therefore be ready to collaborate with a diverse group of professionals, organizations and layers of government in order to deploy critical resources and prevent further escalation.
Depending on the nature of the emergency, this may entail working with hospitals and local medical staff or enlisting scientific experts and researchers. It can also require coordinating communications and resources through various government offices and even deploying military support. Working as a public health preparedness specialist takes significant management skills to ensure that such varied teams are able to function effectively as a cohesive unit.