New survey focused on local organizations’ ‘preparedness’

The results hope to guide future work of the health department


Be prepared.

It’s a lesson we often try to instill in children about the importance of being ready for an uncertain future. As time goes on, however, and the hustle and bustle of daily life leave us focused on getting through the next day or week, we can lose sight of the importance of preparedness.

Luckily, a new survey from the Chatham County Public Health Department hopes to remind local businesses and community organizations of exactly that. The Chatham County Integrated Preparedness Planning Survey was created by the CCPHD to gather information from local public health partners about public health preparedness training and exercise needs. By completing this survey, the department says partners are helping meet N.C. Public Health Preparedness & Response requirements.

The survey, which closes May 29, asks organizations questions like “What do you believe are most important for your preparedness efforts for the next 12 months?” and, “In the next 12 months, what exercises would you like to conduct to demonstrate, evaluate, and improve your organization's capabilities?”

The survey can be accessed by community organizations and employees at 

Preparedness includes a multitude of things, according to CCPHD officials. It means ensuring the department has the tools and infrastructure in place and accessible for its partners when the next crisis comes. The CCPHD website also offers a variety of preparedness resources including how to prepare pets for disasters, how to assemble an emergency disaster kit, how to monitor extreme weather events, taking protective measures against bioterrorism and more. 

This week, we talk with two CCPHD officials: Nathan Stokes, public health nurse, and Zachary Horner, CCPHD public information officer. They shared the importance of the survey, preparedness at large and how these results hope to guide the work of the health department moving forward. 

Responses to questions came from both Stokes and Horner, which are denoted by their initials

What does this survey ask participants to answer?

Nathan Stokes: We are asking participants to share with us their perspective on what is their most pressing preparedness concern.

Zachary Horner: A critical part of public health is partnerships. It’s in our mission, “building a healthy Chatham County through community partnerships and a commitment to equity.” This survey is designed to guide the work that will follow it by giving us insight into what our community partners are seeing on a daily basis and what they need.

Why is the information collected from this survey valuable?

NS: Because it helps us set priorities and plan to meet those concerns.

ZH: We can’t support our community partners unless we know what they need and what they’re working on. We have a preparedness position on our staff for this purpose, specifically working in concert with Emergency Management to respond to crises in an organized and well, prepared way.

Define preparedness. Why is it important for organizations in the county?

NS: Because we serve Chatham County and we want to be planning to address the specific concerns of our partners in the county.

ZH: Preparedness is ensuring that we are ready for whatever comes our way. It means we have the tools and infrastructure in place and accessible when the next crisis comes. The Covid-19 pandemic can give us a perfect example of what preparedness is and why it is important. While there is uncertainty and a need for continuous learning with a pandemic involving a novel virus, we also leaned on our plans, systems, procedures, protocols, and preparedness exercises to help us respond in a proficient and productive way when new challenges arose.

How do these questions about preparedness fit into the larger work of the Chatham County Public Health Department?

NS: Being prepared to face ongoing and emerging threats to Public Health in Chatham County is a core responsibility and priority of our agency.

ZH: One of the things you’ll hear us in public health talk about is the 10 Essential Public Health Services, developed to give a framework for public health across the country. A couple of those services — building and maintaining a strong organizational infrastructure for public health; communicating effectively to inform and educate; and strengthening, supporting, and mobilizing communities and partnerships — are preparedness. Public health is more than flu shots and restaurant inspections. We are invested in each and every thing that influences the health and well-being of Chatham County residents, including responding to chemical spills, flooding, extreme temperatures, and water and sewer failures. And this is not just a financial investment, but an emotional and moral one as well. 

What are some steps organizations across the county can/should take to ensure they’re prepared for some of the scenarios addressed in the survey?

NS: Staying in contact with the Public Health Department and Emergency Management is a great start. We provide ongoing information via social media. Getting added to the Emergency Management Code Red Alert tool is also a great avenue.

ZH: It’s also important for those organizations to have plans in place for whenever emergency events occur and to follow those plans. Working with us at CCPHD and Emergency Management to get assistance in developing those plans is a great first step.

In the survey you ask organizations how CCPHD can help with preparedness support. What is your department’s capacity for support? What does that support look like?

NS: We have the capacity to support our community by acting as a coordination node for resources and responders, and by fusing information from diverse sources and using it to create coordinated and comprehensive messaging. We also have the capacity for response. For instance, we provided several thousand Covid vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic by working closely with our partners to boost access across the Chatham community.

ZH: As Nate said, preparedness is built into our organizational infrastructure, but it’s also built into our nature. Nate’s position is preparedness, but we also have a team dedicated to assessing and addressing epidemiological issues like pandemics, virus outbreaks, and STDs. During the Covid-19 pandemic, each and every one of our positions played a special role in responding to the challenges created by the spread of the virus. Ultimately, our support, in preparedness or other areas, is about improving the health and well-being of Chatham County residents by providing our time and effort to the best evidence-based solutions available with caring, hard-working and knowledgeable staff, a staff that cares about the past, present and future of Chatham County.

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at 

Chatham County Public Health Department, public health, preparedness, survey,