Monroe Public Health wins national award

Messenger Post Media

The Monroe County Department of Public Health recently received national recognition for its accessible preparedness training program, developed to help area residents with disabilities be better prepared for emergencies.

“This award recognition is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the staff at the Monroe County Department of Public Health, and shows just how committed they are to the public health and safety of our community,” County Executive Adam Bello said. “The accessible preparedness training program is a perfect example of how government should respond to the needs of their constituents, regardless of ability.”

The National Association of County and City Health Officials is giving the Department of Public Health a 2020 Promising Practice Award, its highest honor for replicable and exemplary programs poised to become model practices nationwide. Monroe County will present its award-winning program during the virtual 2020 NACCHO Preparedness Summit.

“Preparing for emergencies is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor,” said Michael Mendoza, Public Health commissioner. “Our team recognized the need for more targeted planning, and worked in tandem with local residents who have disabilities to identify and address their specific concerns. We are committed to serving everyone in our community, and I am incredibly proud of this initiative and those who helped make it happen.”

The program sought to help participants learn the reasons why people need to be prepared, understand the unique ways individuals need to prepare, learn how to develop and practice individual emergency plans, design and build an emergency kit that meets individual needs, and train others with a disability to prepare for emergencies.

“When we started this project, we found a huge gap in information on how to help people with disabilities prepare for an emergency, yet they are often the most vulnerable when disaster strikes,” said project leader Aaron Cignarale, senior public health emergency preparedness specialist. “Imagine if you cannot hear an alarm or you have to cross broken glass in a wheelchair. These are a few of the many challenges we needed to consider.”

The Department of Public Health partnered with the University of Rochester, Center for Disability Rights, Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and other community organizations to implement the project. It was funded through a grant from NACCHO.