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Published on Monday, August 15, 2016

Public Health Nurses provide calm after the storm

The July 22 storm that knocked over trees and left thousands of people without power came in the midst of record high temperatures, creating extremely dangerous conditions for senior citizens with limited mobility and no easy access to anywhere with air conditioning.

The City of Duluth put out a request of help, and St. Louis County Public Health Nurses responded, initiating a Public Health Emergency Preparedness Response/Extreme Heat Welfare Check.

PHHS Deputy Director Shelley Saukko shared the following:

"Margaret Ratai, Public Health Nurse assigned to the Virginia office, received a phone call from
Marilyn Cluka, NE MN Emergency Preparedness Regional Coordinator, requesting Public Health
Assistance to perform welfare checks at Duluth senior citizen apartments due to requests from out-of-State relatives to the City of Duluth. Other PHHS preparedness staff and Managers were unable to be reached at the time.

Working by phone, and having obtained approval from PHHS Administration, Margaret began
immediately to organize staff for the incident and prepare a plan. She contacted the Duluth
Emergency Manager, describing PHHS involvement and offering to provide support to Duluth. 

The City of Duluth developed a priority list of senior apartments that would require visits. The apartment building numbers and location would determine staffing needs.

Margaret assigned staff to work in pairs. Work assignments and details included:
- Staff would carry a cell phone, water or other liquid for hydration, paper and pen and
clipboard for recording.

Margaret developed Talking Points for staff, a roster for staff to document contacts, a training plan, a staffing plan, and she researched needed handouts. Eight Public Health workers helped in the research and printed needed educational handouts for extreme heat, food safety during power outages, and pet safety for extreme heat. The DECC was a contact regarding weekend availability of the Cooling Center if needed.

Workers visited four sites: Pines 1 and 2, Mount Royal Manor, and Woodlawn Manor. Carrie Gertsema, PHN Supervisor, accompanied staff and sent rosters to the City of Duluth ER Manager after checks were completed. Meanwhile, Margaret remained in the Virginia office to be contacted by phone as needed.

The quick and efficient action by Margaret Ratai was extremely important and appreciated. The
support that was added by Carrie Gertsema, Shawn Krizal of the City of Duluth, Marilyn Cluka the NE MN Coordinator, and all the Public Health staff was key to the success of this project. Thank you all!"

Public Health Nurses involved in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Response/Extreme Heat Welfare Check: (Front row, L-R) Kelly Bruels and Sarah Miller. (Back row) Heidi Loberg-Kreft, Emily Lian,  Maggie Lattery, Rebecca Paulson, Rillis Eklund and Lisa Konicek.

Public Health Nurses involved in the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Response/Extreme Heat Welfare Check: Carrie Gertsema, PHN Supervisor; Ashley Anderson, PHN. Not pictured: Jen Lautigar, Info Spec II; Mara Koivisto, Info Spec II; Steve Leslie, PHN Supervisor; Margaret Ratai, PHN II. 

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