Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Keeping you safe at night

I've been on the overnight shift all week, tonight in the Denver Joint Information Center. There are about 10 of us here, and each person has a different assignment.

Denver set up this room over the last couple of months. It is an old janitor's closet - really! It is truly in the bowels of the City and County Building. There are about 18 computers and phones lots of televisions, but only the reruns of the DNC speeches are on now.

Since we are working 12 hour shifts, parking was a problem - there aren't that many places downtown where you can park that long, and overlapping into two days. They set up parking for us in a nearby structure. That was great. I had to walk a couple blocks, and even though it was 9:30 in the evening, I never felt so safe - there were police officers all over the place. Maybe that was primarily because we are near the DPD headquarters, but I haven't been around town much this week. Sleeping during the day means that you miss a lot of what is going on.

Got a "tweet" today (a Twitter text message) from a co-worker that said that the DNC is hard on marriages. It really is hard to maintain relationships when you work at night and sleep during the day. My daughter had to go stay with her godmother for the week, so she could get to school each day and eat real food. I won't see her until Friday evening. I bet she is having a great time with her godmother, but I hope she keeps up with her homework.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

DNC and Public Health

A lot of people have been asking me why public health is involved in the DNC preparations. To some people, it seems odd that we will be standing by to help out at a moment's notice. What could happen that requires public health response?

Public health is always on board, but you rarely see us. When it works, we're invisible.

We make sure that the food you eat when you go to a restaurant is safe. When you turn on the faucet, remember that it's public health that regulates water treatment so the water we drink is pure. We watch the day care centers that serve food, we monitor the emissions that come out of your car's tailpipe, and we make sure that children get the tests they need right after birth.

So, what we call a foodborne illness is always possible - all the parties planned for hotels, restaurants, and historic buildings... young people gathered in parks to protest who might share food with each other, and in pretty hot weather.

We've heard that everyone who wants to enter the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field will go through security points. I am imagining long lines of people in the parking lots around Invesco all afternoon next Thursday, when the weather is looking like it will be 90+. What will happen if people start keeling over from the heat and dehydration? Planning for a situation like this is a public health role; so is making sure the medical system can deal with the consequences.

One of the things that concerns me the most is the number of people who will be coming to Denver from much lower elevations. The feelings that go along with altitude sickness are so similar to other illnesses - headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue. It won't be a problem for most people, but overexertion in the heat could make the symptoms more pronounced. If someone really got sick, might his or her symptoms be written off to altitude sickness?

You might know that public health is a player in anti-terrorism efforts. The DNC is designated as a high security event. We all hope that all the preparations

Friday, August 22, 2008

DNC, here we come....

That's right, as one of my coworkers put it, the crazies are here.

Today, more than four days before the DNC officially begins, there were at least two threatening incidents - a suspicious package in Capitol Hill and white powder and threatening mail at Senator McCain's campaign headquarters in Centennial.

Thankfully, both incidents were resolved quickly, with no real threat and no injuries.

So, what's in store for all of us in this next 8 days? We can only imagine. Stay tuned for more from the "front" of public health during the DNC.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer reading from the Glogger (Guest Blogger): How’s your Emergency Preparedness Reading List?

Have you been working on getting through your summer reading list?

I was recently checking out the “card catalog” at my local branch of the library. So I was curious about fiction that deals with Emergency Preparedness topics.

Using the subject index I found there are 10 novels in the category of Influenza Fiction, then 52 books listed as End of World Fiction, 20 as Epidemics Fiction, and 15 books termed Victims of Terrorism Fiction. There is even a special category of September 11 Terrorist Attacks 2001 Fiction with 37 novels.

Interestingly enough, not all of these are books for adults. Two of the Influenza Fiction books are for children – one is about how a young boy takes care of his animal friends in Farm Flu by Teresa Bateman. The other is based on the true story of Marven who was sent by his parents to a lumber camp to escape the flu raging in the city (Marven of the Great North Woods by Kathryn Lasky).

Will we give our children material for the Influenza Fiction of the future?

Another good reason to ask ourselves “What If? Colorado.”

Check out the Emergency Kit Calculator to figure out what supplies you need to complete your kit. In case you’re interested, my summer reading list included books in the categories of Antarctica Fiction, Jane Austen Fiction and Knitting Fiction. It’s been a good summer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Public health steps up to the plate.

Colorado has more than 1200 registered public health and medical volunteers in the database known as the Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer.

The Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer serves as a tool to call upon needed volunteers anywhere in the state. The volunteer system allows communities throughout
Colorado to support each other with these essential resources.

These are people like you and me that want to be there when the stuff hits the fan. Most are medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, and mid-level health care providers, plus respiratory therapists, dentists, pharmacists, EMTs and paramedics, and mental health counselors. Many are employed in public health, including epidemiologists.

But the Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer needs support volunteers, too. If you aren't a medical professional but you think you could help during a disaster, you could provide support with recordkeeping, communications, logistics, distribution of assets, or spiritual/faith-based counseling. Sign up online at


Each volunteer is required to take Incident Command System 100 and 700. Both courses are free and available online at

Volunteers register themselves online and enter contact information, license renewals and certifications directly. Volunteers keep their own information up-to-date. Volunteers are screened and credentialed before they can be available for activation.