Hurricane season serves as reminder that any type of disaster can affect the health of individuals and entire communities.
A new toolkit of prepared cell phone text messages advising people how to protect their health after a disaster is available now through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These messages support state and local emergency managers in disaster response and are available online at https://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/psa.
Cell phone usage and texting is widespread in the United States and many communities have text alert systems for emergency notification. During a disaster, the state or local agency can download and distribute the new public health messages using their existing cell-phone emergency message distribution systems.
Community residents should contact their local emergency management agency to learn whether text message alerts are available in their community and to register if available.
To develop the public health emergency text message content, HHS experts worked with state and local agencies. The content, approved by subject matter experts, complements 30-second public service announcements for radio and television available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The text messages cover a wide range of actions people can take to protect their health.
Messages are limited to 115 characters or fewer including spaces. Emergency responders can use the messages as they are or tailor the messages based on specific local needs. The toolkit currently features text messages relevant to hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.
Local and state agencies register their interest in using the toolkit by providing contact information to HHS, so they can receive alerts and updates as the content expands to include health tips for additional types of disasters. More than 400 agencies have registered so far. Agencies register by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The text message toolkit is a collaborative effort of five U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesвЂ™ divisions: the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.