Responding to Threats

Increasing concern for emergency preparedness 24/7, emergent and re-emergent diseases, and new environmental regulations require that the Health Department sustain and increase its environmental oversight, emergency response, and broad-based training programs. Because of the threat of bioterrorism, the department will increasingly be called upon to work with the police and fire departments in planning for incidents and addressing community concerns.

Emergent and re-emergent infectious diseases, such as: Eastern Equine Encephalitis, SARS, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, Rabies, Tuberculosis, and outbreaks such as H1N1 influenza, reaffirm the need for strong oversight by the Health Department and prompt investigation of all disease reports.

Recent Collaborative Activities

These threats require greatly increased coordination between town departments and local communities. Some recent activities include:

  • 24/7 coverage for emergencies maintained.
  • Public Health radio system developed in Sub-Region 3 (Needham, Dedham, Wellesley, Norwood, Canton, Milton, Westwood) and drilled frequently.
  • The Health Department continues to meet every two months with the Emergency Preparedness Region 4B consortium that includes 27 towns and participated in regional exercises. The Health Director is a member of the 4B Executive Board.
  • The Health Department and the Fire Department Co-chair the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) which continues to meet monthly with town departments, the local hospital, businesses, the media, and residents. The LEPC received full certification from the Massachusets Emergency Management Agency.
  • Emergency Plans continue to expand and be updated including Special Populations, Emergency Dispensing Plans, and a Continuity of Operations Plan
  • All staff is trained as defined by Homeland Security in Incident Command and National Incident System 100, 200, 300, 400 and 700.
  • The Health Department was part of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health "Flu Care At Home Training" Working Group developing educational materials for Massachusetts residents.
  • The Needham Medical Reserve Corp has expanded to 190 volunteers in Needham and to over 900 in Subregion 3 (Dedham, Canton, Milton, Needham, Norwood, Wellesley, and Westwood). Trainings are offered throughout the year. Three sub-regional exercises have been completed.
  • Four Emergency Dispensing Sites have been identified in Needham and registered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control in the event of an emergency.
  • 4B Public Health Emergency Preparedness Region (27 towns) was recognized as Public Health Ready at the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Summit in Washington, D.C., one of four regions in the country this year.
  • The Needham Health Department was recognized as the first town/city in New England as Public Health Ready in 2004, from the National Association of County and City Agencies.
  • The Health Department was the Incident Commander for the Full-Scale Functional Drill on an anthrax emergency and opening an Emergency Dispensing Site at Broadmeadow School, Saturday September 9th, 8 to 12:30PM with 181 volunteers from the Sub-region 3 Medical Reserve Corps and staff from the Health Departments of Canton, Dedham, Needham, Norwood, Milton, Wellesley, and Westwood. There was also a Communication Drill on August 1st of that year. Both drills were designed by Harvard School of Public Health and funded by a Homeland Security Grant.
  • Presented at the Medical Reserve Corp Best Practices Conference, Westboro on our exercises with the Medical Reserve Corps.
  • Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator position funded for 7.5 hours a week from the MetroWest Health Care Foundation from 7/01/06 to 5/13/07 and funded by Town Meeting in May 2007.
  • AED's are in place in 13 town buildings and schools and 235 employees are trained in CPR and the use of AED's. Needham is a HeartSafe Community.
  • Safety and Emergency Guidelines have been developed for Municipal Departments.
  • A Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Forum was presented with the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce, Representative Peter Koutoujian, Newton Wellesley Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Needham and the Newton Health Department.