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  • When Disaster Strikes

    Be Prepared

    Emergency Preparedness

  • Emergency Preparedness

    Updates from Washington

    CDC Chemical and Bioterrorism Alert

    From EPA and OSHA

    U.S. Government plans

    Actions by Congress

    From Senate Majority Daschle’s Office

    From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): What to Tell Children

    From Health & Human Services: Mental Health Concerns/Medical Supplies/NDMS Activated

    Washington Update – 9/14/01

    CDC Chemical and Bioterrorism Alert:

    • On September 11, the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an official Health Alert to States and Local Public Health Agencies. CDC announced that, due to current events, it is on heightened alert status to monitor for any possible unusual disease patterns associated with the terrorist attacks, including chemical and biological agents. The CDC recommended that health agencies initiate heightened surveillance for any unusual disease occurrence or increased numbers of illnesses. The Center asks that agencies notify all segments of state emergency response systems (including epidemiologists, laboratories, all local public health units, hospital emergency departments, and 911 dispatch centers) to make them aware of unusual patterns. CDC should also be alerted of any unusual occurrences at their emergency number of 770/488-7100 (operational 24-hours per day) or 770/488-4819. They may also be contacted by email at or through their website at

    From EPA and OSHA:

    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman announced on Thursday, September 13, that the EPA is taking steps to ensure the safety of rescue workers and the public at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon disaster sites, and to protect the environment. EPA is working with state, federal, and local agencies to monitor and respond to potential environmental hazards and minimize any environmental effects of the disasters and their aftermath.

      EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been on the scene at the World Trade Center sampling and monitoring exposure to potentially contaminated dust and debris. Early tests have been very reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.

      EPA’s primary concern is to ensure that rescue workers and the public are not exposed to elevated levels of asbestos, acidic gases or other contaminants from the debris. Sampling of ambient air quality found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos. Sampling of bulk materials and dust found generally low levels of asbestos.

      The levels of lead, asbestos, and volatile organic compounds in air samples taken on the day of the attacks, downwind from the World Trade Center site, were not detectable or not of concern. Additional sampling of both ambient air quality and dust particles was conducted thirty-five hours later in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and results were uniformly acceptable.

      Public health concerns about asbestos contamination are primarily related to long-term exposure. Short-term, low-level exposure of the type that might have been produced by the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings is unlikely to cause significant health effects. [posted 9/14]

    U.S. Government plans:

    • The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) in Washington, DC, reports that because of the strong response by physicians and medical personnel in NY and Washington, any additional assistance is not needed. The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) is a cooperative asset-sharing program among Federal government agencies, state and local governments, and the private businesses and civilian volunteers to ensure resources are available to provide medical services following a disaster that overwhelms the local health care resources. It augments the Nation's emergency medical response capability and establishes a single, integrated national medical response capability for assisting state and local authorities in dealing with the medical and health effects of major peacetime disasters.


    • The President said he is sending an emergency funding authority request to Congress for money to use in the rescue effort, to aid Washington and New York, “and to protect our national security.”

    Actions by Congress:

    • The House of Representative is considering House Joint Resolution 61 – Expressing the sense of the Congress regarding the terrorist attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001. Among other provisions, it commits to support increased resources in the war to eradicate terrorism and supports the determination of the President, in close consultation with the Congress, to punish the perpetrators of these attacks, as well as their sponsors. And signifies that September 12 is a national day of unity and mourning.


    • A White House spokesman said that U.S. intelligence indicates yesterday’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not part of an ongoing wave of terrorism. “We believe the perpetrators have executed their plan, and therefore the risks are significantly reduced,” said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
    • Congress continued working on Thursday on a strong and united response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Legislators are hoping for a resolution similar to that crafted in 1991, which authorized force against Iraq prior to the Gulf War. [posted 9/14]
    • Congressional leaders are also pushing to provide billions of dollars in emergency funding for the rescue efforts underway and for law enforcement. Emergency funding would go to pay for federal, state and local agencies responding to the ongoing crisis; to counter, investigate and prosecute domestic and international terrorism; to increase transit security; to repair public facilities and transit; and to support national security. The White House has requested $20 billion, but a final number has yet to be settled on by Congress. [posted 9/14]

    From Senate Majority Daschle’s office:

    • The American Red Cross is still in need of blood to replenish the nation’s supply. Call 800/448-3543 for information on to schedule an appointment near where you live.


    • The United Way of New York and the New York Community Trust have established a fund to help the victims of the attacks and their families. The September Eleventh Fund will provide immediate support to established emergency assistance agencies. Anyone wishing to contribute may send their donations in care of United Way, 2 Park Ave, New York, New York, 10016 or call: 212/251-4035.


    • Links to information on survivors and victims can be found at the Federal Emergency Management Association at

    From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – What to Tell Children:

    Washington, D.C., September 12, 2001 - The terrorist events in New York and Washington, D.C., have not spared the children of the nation, said Joe M. Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They have seen the terrible television pictures and heard the adults in their lives discussing the tragic events. Yet many adults don't know how to talk to children about the disaster, or don't know how to recognize that their children are feeling distress.

    FEMA for Kids, the part of the FEMA web site devoted to children, offers advice on how parents can discuss terrorism to their children. The site also includes general guidelines about dealing with disasters' impact on children and an opportunity for schools to submit artwork children have done in an effort to share their feelings. 

    "Children affected by disasters may suddenly act younger than they are or may appear stoic – not crying or expressing concern," said Holly Harrington, the FEMA for Kids manager. "Parents can help their children by talking to them, keeping them close and even spoiling them for a little while. We also advise that children not be overexposed to the news coverage of the terrorist events."

    Talking to children about terrorism can be particularly problematic since providing them with safety guidelines to protect themselves from terrorism is difficult. According to psychologists, questions about terrorism are teaching opportunities. Adults should answer questions about terrorism by providing understandable information and realistic reassurance. And children don't need to be overwhelmed with information, so less is better than more in terms of details.

    Children may exhibit these behaviors after a disaster:

    1. Change from being quiet, obedient and caring to loud, noisy and aggressive or may change from being outgoing to shy and afraid.
    2. Develop nighttime fears, have nightmares or bad dreams.
    3. Be afraid the event will reoccur.
    4. Become easily upset, crying and whining.
    5. Lose trust in adults. After all, their adults were not able to control the disaster.
    6. Revert to younger behavior such as bed wetting and thumb sucking.
    7. Not want parents out of their sight and refuse to go to school or childcare.
    8. Have symptoms of illness, such as headaches, vomiting or fever.
    9. Worry about where they and their family will live.

    What to do:

    1. Talk with the children about how they are feeling and listen without judgment.
    2. Let the children take their time to figure things out. Don't rush them.
    3. Help them learn to use words that express their feelings, such as happy, sad, angry or mad.
    4. Assure children that you will be there to take care of them. Reassure them often.
    5. Stay together as a family as much as possible.
    6. Let them have some control, such as choosing what outfit to wear or what meal to have for dinner.
    7. Encourage the children to give or send pictures they have drawn or things they have written.
    8. Help children regain faith in the future by helping them develop plans for activities that will take place later - next week, next month.
    9. Allow the children to grieve losses.

    From Health and Human Services:

    HHS Responds to Mental Health Concerns

    • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released an initial $1 million for mental health services and longer-range planning to respond to the emotional and psychological impact of the loss of life and damages inflicted by the terrorist attack. In addition, personnel from HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) were dispatched to New York to conduct longer-range planning for services to rescue workers, survivors and others. Secretary Thompson emphasized that HHS would help address not only immediate mental health needs, but the expected long-term results of the attacks. [posted 9/14]

    Medical Supplies

    • HHS' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to monitor pharmaceutical and blood availability, and it reported on Friday, September 14 that supplies were adequate at present. High blood donation has resulted in some blood banks reaching capacity. HHS Secretary Thompson emphasized, however, that blood donation requires ongoing commitment. The ideal will be long-term commitment and scheduling of blood donation to ensure a steady and reliable supply. [posted 9/14]

    National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Activated

    • HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson activated for the first time ever the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). Hundreds of personnel and tons of supplies were deployed to New York City and to the Pentagon by midday Wednesday, September 12. Secretary Thompson also authorized the first emergency use of the two-year-old National Pharmaceutical Stockpile at the CDC. The shipment arrived in New York within seven hours of the Secretary’s request. HHS is the primary agency for coordinating health, medical and health-related social services under the federal emergency response plan. The Department's Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) is the “medical 911” for all national and catastrophic disasters both natural and manmade. [posted 9/14]
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