It’s a mid-September evening, the day is coming to an end as a family watches the evening news about a hurricane that is off the coast. Earlier in the week the need to evacuate was no longer an immediate issue after the hurricane made a turn out to the ocean, or so people thought. With less than 24 hours until it makes landfall, mother nature had a different plan, causing the hurricane to make a turn heading straight for the coast. As the family waits with anticipation and fear of the unknown of the magnitude of this storm the news anchor signs off to take shelter at the news station and what would be hours upon hours of 130 mile per hour sustained winds, tornadoes, rain, and absolute terror would begin. At the break of day, power lines are down, trees are down, homes are picked up and placed miles down the road as if it were a building block in a child’s play room. Pine trees are snapped like tooth picks, boats are blown onto main road ways and bridges have been picked up and twisted as if someone had shift a crocked picture hanging on a wall. There is no telling the number of lives that are lost, the injuries that have occurred or the true depth of damage created by such a catastrophic event.
In the background, wheels are already in motion. The Emergency Support Functions are underway and the personnel for ESF #8 – Public Health and Medical Services have been notified and are in close contact with what needs to take place. Upon the initial activation there are numerous conference calls that take place with the appropriate personnel from each department under ESF #8. Representatives are appointed as the departments liaison to make sure that all parties are working toward the same goal. (Public Health and Medical Services Annex. 2008). From start to finish, there is swarm in the office as ESF personnel prepare to get help to those in need. First, assessments need to be made, followed by a health surveillance to see what type of injuries there are as well as medical supply needs, potential disease outbreaks and the level of blood supply that is accessible. The delegation of medical personal comes next accompanied with by the appropriate supplies as well as the possible need for patient evacuation. In the case of such a disaster, with no power and the lack of security, there needs to be personnel appointed for the safety and security of drugs, biologics and medical devices, for both humans and animals. This also includes blood, organs and blood tissues. The Safety and security of food, agriculture, as well as the workers are also taken into consideration. (Public Health and Medical Services Annex. 2008).
Some of the biggest focuses of ESF #8 are behavioral, public and mental health after an event such as this. Medical consultations are taken while public health simultaneously looks at the water and whether it is safe for human consumption. Once all aspects have been analyzed, FEMA is deployed. This is where the hands-on work begins, and the goal of providing care to those in need truly comes to life with the help of the American Red Cross, the Postal service, and countless other organizations to be the extra hands and feet in the process. Even though the devastation of a category 5 hurricane slamming into the coast is not one to easily recover from, once the need for outside resources is no longer, the after-action reports are analyzed. Documentation of every incident that took place from ready set GO!
In conclusion, The Emergency support functions have always been but were never truly utilized until 2011. There are 15 Emergency Support Functions that help create a better way to coordinate responses. ESF #8, focuses on the mental and physical health of the effected population because, disasters, big or small can all be a threat to someone’s life. ESFs are initiated when an event occurs that is so large, it overwhelms the local resources. These Functions were created as a way for all mutual aid to work off the same guidelines, for them to know how to respond and who to respond to allowing everyone to know their roll with as little confusion as possible.