Environmental Health Preparedness
To maximize our success, we leverage our resources through proactive planning and strategic collaboration with a variety of local, state and federal partners.
We also evaluate potential health risks from chemical, biological, radiological and physical agents in the environment. During an emergency, our professionals can provide technical advice to Incident Command. Working in partnership with federal and state agencies we assess and prevent possible human health risks from accidental spills, waste disposal, radiation threats and agricultural and industrial activities.
Six areas of focus during an all hazards response:
Protecting drinking water supplies
We ensure that public water supply operators have the right training and skills to secure our drinking water. We also educate and assist professionals, communities and households across the state in preparing
To support these efforts, the Public Drinking Water Systems Program is responsible for the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act program within ten of the largest counties in Florida (Broward, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Volusia). In these ten counties, the program is responsible for the construction and operation of all public water systems that provide piped water to 15 or more service connections, or serve 25 or more people for 60 days or more per year. The County Health Departments (CHDs) conduct investigations of complaints related to public water systems.
In the event of an emergency threat to public health caused by contamination of a public water system, the CHDs assist the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) by notifying potentially affected Floridians. If it receives information that a contaminant is in, or is likely to enter drinking water supplies, the FDEP, in coordination with the FDOH, takes actions necessary to protect the public health. The Surgeon General is responsible for declaring public health emergencies and issuing public health advisories.
Controlling food and waterborne illness
Together, with the Bureau of Epidemiology team of nine regional food and waterborne illness epidemiologists and CHDs, we are responsible for investigating illness outbreaks, intentional or otherwise, associated with food and water consumption and recreational water use. In healthy adults, the effects of food and waterborne illnesses typically last only a few days and are self treated with nonprescription medications. However, disease organisms and toxins that may contaminate food and water can cause severe symptoms in vulnerable groups such as young children, seniors and those who are immune-compromised. Surveillance, training and education programs can
As part of this function, food product recalls are issued when conditions are discovered that make food products potentially unsafe for eating. Local, state and federal agencies work collaboratively to protect Floridas complex food industry comprised of a multitude of meat and dairy herds, manufacturers, processing plants and food distributors, retail stores, restaurants, schools, institutions and food facilities. As a collaborative team the Florida Departments of Health, Agriculture and Consumer Services, Business and Professional Regulation and the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) would respond jointly with law enforcement to any intentional or accidental contamination of our food supply.
Preventing arthropod-borne diseases and zoonoses
With our interagency partners, we monitor incidences of arbovirus and other vector-borne diseases within human and animal populations, including West Nile Virus (WNV), Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE), St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), malaria and
Surveillance and rapid diagnostic techniques used in threat recognition can shorten public health response time and reduce the geographic spread of infected vectors, which ultimately decreases the cost of containing them. In coordination with other state, local and federal agencies, mosquito-borne surveillance activities include evaluating mosquito populations, sentinel chickens, wild birds and other animal cases to detect the risk of disease before it occurs in people. Continual surveillance of these wildlife populations could also identify a vector intentionally introduced to negatively impact public health or economic interests.
Many emerging infectious diseases are from animal origin (i.e., zoonoses). Our veterinary public health team works closely with other agencies to determine the threat level and response needed to reduce the risk of human disease from zoonoses.
Controlling biomedical waste
When biomedical waste is improperly managed, it places health care workers, sanitation workers and the general public at risk for contracting dangerous diseases. The Bureau of Environmental Health has primary authority and responsibility for facilities that generate, transport, store, or treat biomedical waste through processes
These include hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, laboratories, funeral homes, dentists, veterinarians and physicians. Complaints concerning biomedical waste are investigated by DOH CHDs. Additionally, small amounts of improperly disposed biomedical waste are cleaned up under DOH supervision. Emergency situations are referred to the State Warning Point. During emergencies, the biomedical waste team can provide technical information and advice on protecting health care workers, environmental-service staff, waste haulers and the general public from risks associated with potentially infectious biomedical waste.
Protecting the public from radiation
We help doctors, dentists and veterinarians protect themselves, their staff and their patients from radiation by inspecting x-ray equipment, mammogram facilities and other radioactive materials they use. We monitor for radiation around the three Florida nuclear power plants through a sampling program and will provide technical advice and response support in the event of a nuclear power plant emergency. We also provide training on how
During consequence management, we advise incident command on the scope of the radiological hazards, disseminate essential radiological information to emergency response teams and shelter management teams, analyze radiological information reported by emergency response teams and facility managers, determine the exposure of victims and emergency response personnel, record and track exposure information, implement procedures to limit emergency response worker exposures, monitor decontamination efforts at essential facilities and areas, monitor to prevent the spread of contamination, identify unsafe areas and facilities and determine when evacuees can return. Additionally, we respond to accidents and emergencies involving radioactive material and can analyze environmental samples on site with a mobile laboratory.
Preventing chemical exposure
Chemical terrorism exposures may occur from vapor, liquid droplets and/or contamination of food or water. Our staff can assist with: field investigations, epidemiological studies, and the establishment of exposure registries that include monitoring of long-term health impacts; medical treatment and decontamination consultation; criteria for entry into a contaminated zone; and prevention measures, evacuation and relocation decisions.