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Rural counties asked for emergency info for Web database

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  • Rural counties asked for emergency info for Web database

    Rural counties asked for emergency info for Web database, a
    potential nationwide model
    By JASON STRAZIUSO
    Associated Press Writer
    In preparation for a possible terrorist attack, officials hope
    to catalog emergency resources - from decontamination tents to body
    bags - from eight rural Pennsylvania counties in an Internet
    database that could serve as a national model.
    Officials hope to collect a range of information they say will
    be far more detailed than existing databases. This week, 1,000
    letters were sent out asking for information from hospitals, police
    and fire departments, nursing homes - even animal hospitals and
    funeral homes.
    "Why funeral homes? Because it's something they (emergency
    officials) know nothing about," said Andrea Hassol of consulting
    firm Abt Associates, which is heading up the project with Geisinger
    Health System. "They might need to know about cremation
    capabilities, for example. You might need to know that in a
    disaster."
    The agencies are being asked to submit their information into an
    Internet database accessible by emergency officials. The project
    involves Columbia, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland,
    Schuylkill, Snyder and Union counties.
    Hassol said the database will allow officials to see what
    resources are available during emergencies and for equipment
    purchase decisions.
    "It's hard to plan and to deploy your resources when you don't
    know what your resources are," Hassol said. "It's hard to make an
    argument that you need more of something if you don't know what you
    have."
    If the project succeeds, it could be expanded statewide.
    The state Department of Health, which is consulting on the
    project, is looking into the feasibility of taking over the
    database once the 15-month, $500,000 grant from the federal
    Department of Health and Human Services expires, said Health
    Department spokeswoman Jessica Seiders.
    Karen Migdail, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Healthcare
    Research and Quality, a division of HHS, said the Pennsylvania
    model could be used across the country.
    "Our goal in funding research ... is that it eventually be
    translated into use by the health-care system," Migdail said. "If
    it works and is successful and it does what they want to do, we
    will work ... to make it widely available."
    Williamsport Fire Department Deputy Chief Irv Gleason said he
    thinks the survey is well-intentioned, although he wondered if it
    wasn't duplicating information already gathered by regional
    terrorism task forces.
    Dr. Anthony Turel, who is directing the project for Geisinger, a
    prominent health care provider in the state, said the project is
    unique because it will be Web-accessible and because it is
    collecting such detailed information.
    Gleason, who said his department would likely participate, said
    emergency responders benefit from having a large database of
    emergency resources.
    "Look at the mutual aid Pennsylvania gave to New York City
    during that (Sept. 11, 2001) disaster," Gleason said. "They had
    to know how many search-and-rescue task forces we could supply to
    them - so yes, there's a need to know what's in Ohio, West
    Virginia, Maryland, places like that."
    The database, which officials hope agencies will update
    quarterly, will detail 250 resources - from antibiotics to
    airplanes - that could be used during emergencies.
    The Web site will be well-protected, officials said, because a
    terrorist could find the information valuable and because nursing
    homes, for example, are being asked to submit proprietary
    information.
    Hassol said the project is at least in part a result of the 2001
    terrorist attacks because funding for such projects wasn't readily
    available before the attacks.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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