Stanislaus County Health Services Agency
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Emergency Preparedness

Program Overview:

The mission of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program is to protect Stanislaus County residents by preparing for, and mitigating the effects of, natural or human made medical health emergencies through planning, training and emergency response activities.

Grant funding for these efforts is provided through:


In the event of a medical health emergency within the county, Emergency Preparedness is the central point of contact and coordination with other local government and non-government agencies including the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services, police, fire and ambulance services as well as local hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement cycle graphicEmergency preparedness involves a continuous cycle of quality improvement that comprises the following steps:

Threat Assessment – This entails evaluating likely threats that would require an emergency response.  Threat assessment takes into account issues such as population, geography, and the severity and/or type of threat. 

For Public Health, some possible threats requiring an emergency response include natural threats such as pandemic influenza as well as human threats such as bio-terrorism (i.e. anthrax, smallpox).


  • Planning – Once a threat is identified, a written plan is created documenting the resources (human and material) and strategies required to mitigate its potential effects.
  • Training – Personnel likely to respond to an identified threat must be trained on the policies and procedures established in the planning document.  Personnel must also be trained on the equipment and tools required to respond.
  • Drills and Exercises – Once personnel have been trained on an emergency response plan, they must put their response skills to the test through drills and exercises to ensure competency.
  • After Action and Improvement – Following a drill, exercise or actual incident, an analysis or “after action report” of the outcomes results in an improvement plan that is used to revise the existing plan.

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Communication

PhoneAs an emergency event unfolds, providing the public with information and risk communication are key components of an effective response. 

During a local emergency or disaster, essential information will be disseminated to the community via print, radio and television as well as online at www.stanemergency.com

Another aspect of emergency response involves internal communications with Public Health employees as well as other county departments and emergency response partners.  One tool used for these internal communications is the California Health Alert Network (CAHAN)

CAHAN is administered through the California Department of Public Health and provides emergency response personnel a means to receive and confirm alerts from state and local government during emergencies, urgent events, and disasters.  CAHAN transmits relevant information about emergency issues to public health and medical partners via phone, pager, fax and email.

CAHAN is also used as a central, online collaborative work environment for health and medical emergency partners to securely share and store confidential and/or sensitive information.

Emergency Preparedness also maintains the Health Emergency Alert Response Database (HEARD) which is a contact database of medical facilities, practitioners and other partners in the community.  HEARD is primarily used to transmit up to the minute information using fax broadcast.

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Syndromic Surveillance

thumbnail Syndromic surveillance involves the monitoring of non-traditional data sources to detect public health events in advance of other methods such as laboratory or physician confirmed diagnosis.  Some examples of syndromic surveillance data that can be collected include over-the-counter drug sales, laboratory report orders, and employee absentee rates in the workplace. 

Emergency Preparedness administers a web based application called Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics or “ESSENCE”.  ESSENCE is tied in to hospital emergency department (ED) electronic information systems throughout the county and compiles chief complaint data from ED patients for the purpose of syndromic surveillance.

ESSENCE groups chief complaints into ‘syndrome’ categories and analyzes the information to determine if the numbers of visits for a facility are greater than expected based on historical data.  Syndrome groups monitored are: botulism-like, fever, gastrointestinal, hemorrhagic illness, neurological, rash, respiratory, and shock/coma.  By monitoring these syndrome groups, Public Health can identify abnormal ED visitation patterns and more effectively respond to potential outbreaks.

ESSENCE can also be used for situational awareness during known health events by querying all ED visits for a particular syndrome or by keyword (such as carbon monoxide, animal bite, injury, etc.).

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Mass Prophylaxis

thumbnailAn effective response to a public health emergency such as a disease outbreak (pandemic influenza) or an act of terrorism (anthrax, smallpox) requires an enormous amount of medical supplies (see Strategic National Stockpile) and the ability to effectively distribute those supplies in an efficient manner.

A Point of Distribution or “POD” is a temporary, emergency mass prophylaxis clinic that may be set up in a school gymnasium, community center or other location that is easily accessible to the public.

In an emergency, Public Health will deploy POD clinics throughout the county to provide medications as quickly as possible to as many citizens as possible.

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Strategic National Stockpile

thumbnailAn emergency event that overwhelms the local capacity to provide medical supplies and/or medications may require the county to request delivery of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

The SNS is a large cache of emergency antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins and other critical medical equipment and supplies.  These items can supplement and re-supply local health jurisdictions that are hit with a crisis and/or have exhausted local resources to mitigate the incident.

Upon the request of local authorities, SNS materiel will be delivered to a central warehouse within the county to be distributed to PODs (see Mass Prophylaxis), hospitals, clinics and other locations that may require these critical emergency supplies.

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Alternate Care Sites

thumbnailIn a mass casualty event, such as an earthquake or a large explosion, local hospitals may experience a patient surge.  This is a sudden influx of patients that quickly overwhelms hospital bed capacity and the capacity to adequately provide patient care.

In such an event, an Alternate Care Site (ACS) may be established to provide temporary care to less critical patients that can be relocated or redirected from overwhelmed hospitals.  Like an emergency “Point of Distribution” an ACS can be set up in a gymnasium or other large community space that is easily accessible to the public.

The Metropolitan Medical Response System program, funded through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided local funding to purchase two mobile storage trailers that each contain the equipment and supplies to deploy and support a 25 bed ACS unit (50 beds total).  In a surge event, Public Health can mobilize these sites to help alleviate patient overflow from impacted hospitals.

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Hospital Preparedness Program

thumbnailThe Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) enhances the ability of hospitals and health care systems to prepare for and respond to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.

Emergency Preparedness administers HPP funding in partnership with the Stanislaus County Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Council (SCHEPC).  The SCHEPC is comprised of representatives from all 5 hospitals in Stanislaus County as well as representatives from ambulance providers, clinics and long term care facilities.  Various state and local government entities are also represented.

The SCHEPC Vision:

We are an open forum that demonstrates a shared understanding of our separate roles and responsibilities in order to develop and make recommendations to policy makers. We maximize coordinated emergency healthcare for all in Stanislaus County.

The SCHEPC Mission:

To coordinate multidisciplinary organizations for the collaboration necessary to facilitate healthcare preparedness in all-hazard incidents in Stanislaus County, considering the interests of citizens, industry, private and public agencies and governmental bodies in the county.

The SCHEPC meets on a semi-monthly basis and meeting minutes and other important information is posted here.

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