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Public Health Staff Going Door-to-Door in Knox County

KNOXVILLE -- Knoxville residents living near downtown may get an unexpected knock on the door next week. The Knox County Health Department, in conjunction with the East Tennessee Regional Health Office of the Tennessee Department of Health, will be conducting door-to-door interviews as part of a training exercise on Thursday and Friday, March 24 and 25. Staff members from both health departments will be interviewing a selection of residents who live within a roughly three-mile radius of downtown Knoxville in order to evaluate a rapid assessment tool called CASPER, which stands for "Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response."

In the event of an emergency, the CASPER methodology allows officials to rapidly assess the status of a community by visiting pre-selected census blocks (parts of census tracts) and surveying residents during the crises. Answers to questions such as the extent of injuries and illness, whether residents have adequate supplies of food and water, or if utilities might not be operating help improve emergency response. An example is the Kingston coal ash spill. In that event, a community assessment was performed, asking residents about potential symptoms related to the spill. The psychological stress of residents was rapidly identified as an unmet need that then could be addressed.

Teams in the community will be clearly identified by orange vests and will be wearing identifying badges. Residents in targeted neighborhoods may be visited between the hours of 4 and 7 PM. Each health professional participating in the drill will be accompanied by a University of Tennessee graduate student in public health, who also is taking part in this learning experience. Residents will be questioned as to whether they have taken basic precautions to prepare for emergencies, such as stockpiling supplies of food, water and medications, and what preparations they might have made for contacting relatives or for their pets' needs.

Published March 19, 2011

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