According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 22 out of the 27 countries situated in the Western Pacific region have national pandemic preparedness plans, while 92 percent perform outpatient surveillance works for illnesses that resemble the symptoms of influenza. These numbers can be considered as bright spots in an otherwise gloomy picture caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Howard Krunreuther and Robert Meyer in their book titled The Ostrich Paradox: Why We Underprepare for Disasters, we might have excellent abilities to predict and safeguard ourselves against natural disasters yet we also fail miserably to respond to the warnings and protect ourselves against the threats. This misstep, unfortunately, has devastating effects that cause deaths and disruption of peoples’ lives and economies on a global scale.
It’s critical to stress that local communities, like the one you belong to, have duties to play in the overall campaign against pandemic situations, both present and future. Here are five ways of how local communities can brace for the impacts of future pandemics:
1. Stock on essential supplies and consider food self-sufficiency.
One of the major problems that the U.S. faced at the onset of the pandemic is the shortage of essential supplies such as nasal swabs, alcohol wipes, and disinfecting chemicals. This is due to heavy reliance on foreign imports, lack of available domestic suppliers, and inadequate stockpiles of such critical supplies.
Food scarcity also became a threat, even if there are domestic farms that produce fruits, vegetables, and livestock — this time due to lockdown restrictions and massive supply chain disruptions. With these in mind, local communities must gradually build up their inventory of essential supplies and identify ways to be food self-sufficient by encouraging residents to do backyard farming and having community food gardens.
2. Make sure that there are adequate and proper supplies transport and storage facilities.
For future pandemics, it’s vital to have adequate and appropriate transport and storage facilities for medicines, food, and medical equipment. Fortunately, there are reliable online resources such as elakeside.com that offer products purposely-manufactured for these purposes. Cities and municipalities across the country must invest in these facilities for them to adequately and quickly respond to future pandemic situations.
3. There must be dedicated isolation, testing, and quarantine facilities in strategic locations.
Past pandemics such as SARS and MERS have pointed out the need for isolation and quarantine facilities, as well as testing centers to quickly detect transmissions (actual and potential) and contain infected individuals. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent wake-up call for local and national governments as to just how important these facilities are, especially in preventing widespread disease transmission.
4. Contract tracing, social distancing, and localized lockdown protocols must be drafted and tested.
There have been numerous countries across the world that struggled greatly (and continue to do so) in tracing close contacts of COVID-positive patients, enforcing social distancing measures, and implementing localized lockdowns.
As a result, there were many reports of rapid transmissions, clashes between law enforcement and community members, and problems in the supply chain due to border lockdowns. The logical remedy is to draft relevant protocols and test them through simulation and tabletop exercises. When necessary, protocols must be revised to address whatever loopholes are identified during the testing phase.
5. There has to be an established Incident Command System (ICS) specifically for emerging and infectious diseases (EID).
The concept of Incident Command System has been around since the 1970s when it was first introduced as an on-scene, standardized, and all-risk incident management tool. People who are tapped to respond to future pandemics must be trained in ICS with a focus on the peculiarities of emerging and infectious diseases and an Incident Manage Team (IMT) must be formed for the purpose. By having an IMT with adequate training on ICS, future pandemics will be handled more efficiently for favorable results within a relatively short time.
With these five steps as a guide, your local community should be better prepared to address future pandemics and safeguard community members’ safety and well-being.