Homeland Security's Chief Medical Officer Visits The Coast - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/15/05

Homeland Security's Chief Medical Officer Visits The Coast

Following a first stop in New Orleans, Dr. Jeffery Runge touched down in Gulfport on a personal fact finding mission.

"I'm in the position now to really look at grants and training and preparedness from the medical perspective," says Dr. Jeffery Runge, the Department of Homeland Security's Chief Medical Officer.

Appointed to the new position just one month prior to Katrina, Runge is still piecing together the governments attack plan for future catastrophic events.

"I want to actually look and see how we can do a better job in assisting state and locals in their emergency medical response," says Runge.

It's a plan that he says starts with first responders like American Medical Response.

"This is fundamentally a community and state responsibility. And there are institutions in place to help them plan to be as prepared as they possibly can for any hazard, whether it's a natural disaster or a bioterror incident for instance. And EMS people are right in the middle of that every single time."

Runge met with AMR officials and community leaders, then toured the area by bus. He says knowledge gained from those who been right in the middle of disasters will help shape the future of the governments response before during and after the next national call for help.

"As we like to say during a natural disaster is not the time to be exchanging business cards. You need to have your systems set up and well defined ahead of time. They need to be practiced and drilled."

Planning and practice that Runge says his office is determined to get right.

"What we were not prepared for the first time on the state and local level we will be prepared for next time."

by Don Culpepper

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